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Planning a Suicide Attack
Excerpt From Countering Suicide Terrorism
April 17, 2002

Benefits of the Suicide Attack

    To the Organization

  • Many casualties
  • Media coverage
  • Precisely-chosen time and place
  • Guaranteed success
  • No need for escape route
  • To the Terrorist

    Personal Image

  • Fulfillment of a Religious Commandment
  • Patriotism
  • Personal benefits

  • Eternal life in Paradise
  • 72 young virgins
  • Privilege to promise life in heaven to 70 relatives
  • Family benefits

  • Social status improvement
  • Economic improvement
  • Who is the shahid?

    (shahid - a martyr who fell in the proceess of fulfilling a religious command, the "Jihad" or "holy war.")

    The common characteristics of the shahid, which serve as a basic profile of the suicide bomber, are the following:

    • Young--usually from18 to 27 years of age.
    • Usually not married, unemployed and from a poor ; family.
    • Usually the shahid completed high school.
    • Most were devoted students in the Islamic fundamentalist education centers in Gaza and in the West 9; Bank directed and financed by Hamas.
    • Some of the shahids arrested by Israel in the past have 9; expressed the desire to avenge the death or injury of a 9; relative or a close friend at the hands of Israel.

    The reason for committing a suicide attack for most of the shahids is image therefore first and foremost religious fanaticism, combined with nationalist extremism and a wish for revenge, but not personal despair.

    Usually a shahid does not volunteer for his missions. The shahid may be selected by his Islamic religious teacher at the mosques and Islamic education centers in Gaza and the West Bank. Usually the most devoted students are selected after a close examination by the teachers and over a long time of acquaintance. Sometimes the Shahid is picked by the planner or the initiator of the attack on the basis of previous acquaintance.

    After the potential shahid is selected, he usually participates in long training sessions in order to test his attitudes and performance under pressure and in life-threatening situations. Only those trainees who are both willing and cool-headed are permitted to move on to the next stage.

    Subsequently the shahid usually "disappears" from his home without farewell, while he begins several days of intensive training in order to understand all operational aspects of his mission and learn how to deal with the explosive device. At this time the shahid also undergoes a process of physical and mental purification.

    Some captured terrorists who were trained to be shahids testified that at this stage they were taken to a graveyard and told to lie down inside one of the graves for several hours in order to overcome the fear of death. (Yediot 9/3/95), (Maariv, 24/3/97)

    On the last day before the attack, the shahid is well-trained, brainwashed, and willing and able to execute the suicide attack. At his point he writes a will, in which he asks his family not to mourn him, because he did not die but rather was transformed to another life in which he will be with Allah. Also, he records a propaganda videocassette in which he is disguised (usually by wearing an IDF uniform or typical Israeli clothes and shaving his beard), he says a special prayer, and together with his collaborators he drives to the target area.

    The shahid usually transports the explosive in a vehicle, sometimes even by bicycle or cart. Alternatively, the device may be hidden in a bag or in a military vest under a coat.

    Standard explosives run to about 3-15 kilograms of TNT or homemade explosives. In order to increase the damage, small chunks of iron or a large quantity of nails are often packed around the explosives. The detonator is of a very simple design that allows the perpetrator to activate the explosives at the proper time even when under pressure.

    Excerpt From Countering Suicide Terrorism

    2001, 2002 The International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya and Anti-Defamation League
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    Excerpts From Countering Suicide Terrorism
    Planning a Suicide Attack
    Suicide Terrorism and Israel
    Women's role in suicide terrorism
    The Motives for Suicide Terrorism
    Countering Suicide Terrorism
    Countering Suicide Terrorism CoverThe only book solely devoted to the topic, examines the causes and impact of suicide terror and discusses how communities can cope with these horrific acts.  More>>
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