Although suicidal attacks have occurred throughout history, is it the adoption of these strategies by fundamentalist Islamic terrorists, and the large scale targeting of civilian populations that has been so horrifying in recent years. Terrorism and suicide attacks have long distinct histories, but both started to become common and intertwined in the Middle East in the 1980’s. Factions such as Hezbollah, The Islamic Dawa Party, the Amal Movement, Kurdistan Workers’ Party, The Ba’ath Party and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party all used such tactics against enemy forces and civilians alike throughout the Middle East.
Al-Qaeda, an extremist terrorist group headed by Osama bin Laden had its origins in the CIA-funded mujahideen forces that fought Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 80’s. The organisation carried out its first attack on American soil in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and its first suicide bombing in the 1998 bombing of US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. Al-Qaeda failed in further attacks until September 11th 2001 when they orchestrated the most devastating suicide attack of history where the method of suicide bombing evolved, using a long haul airliner’s fuel as the explosive. Al-Qaeda members hijacked civilian flights and crashed them into the World Trade Centre in New York and The Pentagon in Washington. This event caused the death of nearly 3000 people directly, striking fear and changing the perception of terrorism worldwide.
Terrorists attacks and suicide bombings had both been increasing through the 90’s, but Al-Qaeda 2001 attacks had changed the prominence of terrorism and suicide attacks in the western world from then on for both citizens and terrorists, the terrible destructive power of terrorism had been unleashed. The terrorists that were fighting what they saw as an outside oppressive influences in their country, had bought this fight to the heart of their enemy’s soil and managed to cause an unthinkable amount of destruction. But it wasn’t until ISIS, a terrorist organisation aiming to start a global Islamic Caliphate, that the encouragement to use any method necessary to cause a similar style of destruction in the West was espoused in order to further the cause of terror in “the West”.
Al-Qaeda’s aim was to remove western influence from the Middle East, whereas ISIS adhere to a more extreme Salafi/Wahhabi form of global jihad that even views Muslims who disagree with their violent methods as infidels and justifies killing them. Terrorism has evolved alongside suicide bombings and modern terror tactics, and the move of Middle Eastern terrorist groups targeting the US and Western Europe is due to an evolution in those groups objectives of a global caliphate. This change in outlook has justified even more such groups declaration of jihad against western nations and allowed the terrorist attacks of groups like ISIS to become more and more extreme.