Terrorism 2

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Terrorism’s Increasingly Lethality Essay, Research Paper Although the total volume of terrorist incidents world-wide has declined in the 1990s, the proportion of persons killed in terrorist incidents has steadily risen. For example, according to the RAND-St Andrews University Chronology of International Terrorism,5 a record 484 international terrorist incidents were recorded in 1991, the year of the Gulf War, followed by 343 incidents in 1992, 360 in 1993, 353 in 1994, falling to 278 incidents in 1995 (the last calendar year for which complete statistics are available).6 However, while terrorists were becoming less active, they were nonetheless becoming more lethal. For example, at least one person was killed in 29 percent of terrorist incidents in 1995: the highest

percentage of fatalities to incidents recorded in the Chronology since 1968–and an increase of two percent over the previous year’s record figure.7 In the United States this trend was most clearly reflected in 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Since the turn of the century, fewer than a dozen of all the terrorist incidents committed world-wide have killed more than a 100 people. The 168 persons confirmed dead at the Murrah Building ranks sixth on the list of most fatalities caused this centuryin a single terrorist incident–domestic or international.8 The reasons for terrorism’s increasing lethality are complex and variegated, but can generally be summed up as follows: The growth in the number of terrorist groups motivated by a

religious imperative; The proliferation of “amateurs” involved in terrorist acts; and, The increasing sophistication and operational competence of “professional” terrorists. Religious Terrorism The increase of terrorism motivated by a religious imperative neatly encapsulates the confluence of new adversaries, motivations and rationales affecting terrorist patterns today. Admittedly, the connection between religion and terrorism is not new.9 However, while religion and terrorism do share a long history, in recent decades this form particular variant has largely been overshadowed by ethnic- and nationalist-separatist or ideologically-motivated terrorism. Indeed, none of the 11 identifiable terrorist groups10 active in 1968 (the year credited with marking the advent of

modern, international terrorism) could be classified as “religious.”11 Not until 1980 in fact–as a result of the repercussions from the revolution in Iran the year before–do the first “modern” religious terrorist groups appear:12 but they amount to only two of the 64 groups active that year. Twelve years later, however, the number of religious terrorist groups has increased nearly six-fold, representing a quarter (11 of 48) of the terrorist organisations who carried out attacks in 1992. Significantly, this trend has not only continued, but has actually accelerated. By 1994, a third (16) of the 49 identifiable terrorist groups could be classified as religious in character and/or motivation. Last year their number increased yet again, no to account for nearly half (26

or 46 percent) of the 56 known terrorist groups active in 1995. The implications of terrorism motivated by a religious imperative for higher levels of lethality is evidenced by the violent record of various Shi’a Islamic groups during the 1980s. For example, although these organisations committed only eight percent of all recorded international terrorist incidents between 1982 and 1989, they were nonetheless responsible for nearly 30 percent of the total number of deaths during that time period.13 Indeed, some of the most significant terrorist acts of the past 18 months, for example, have all had some religious element present.14 Even more disturbing is that in some instances the perpetrators’ aims have gone beyond the establishment of some theocracy amenable to their