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Beranda TIPS AND REVIEWS Suicide Attacks in the History of Terror

Suicide Attacks in the History of Terror

source: WikiCommons

The global war on terrorism is the longest war in modern times. Declared by the President of the United States, George W. Bush, followed by allies of the United States and many countries in the world, the war on terrorism began with the terrorist suicide attacks on the twin towers of the WTC in New York and the Pentagon Building on September 11, 2001.

United States President Barack Obama officially ended the global war on terrorism in 2013, marked by the withdrawal of most US troops from Afghanistan and Iraq. But in fact, to this day, the war against terrorism is still ongoing, especially against new terror groups that emerged recently such as ISIS and its affiliated groups, as well as groups that emerged recently with affiliations to Al Qaeda, as well as terror groups. independent or unclear affiliation.

Thus to this day the war against terrorism has been going on for 17 years and will still continue, with battlefields almost all over the world, covering Asia, Africa, Europe, America and Australia. Based on the Physicians for Social Responsibility research report in 2017, in the first ten years of the global war on terror from 2001-2011, the death toll from the war was between 1.3 million and 2 million.

History and Map of Terrorism
Even though it was only declared a world enemy in 2001, terrorism actually has a very long mark in world history. Even so, with suicide attacks in terrorist activities, it can be traced back centuries.

There is still debate, by definition, who carried out the first suicide attack. Generally, a suicide attack will remind many terror observers and historians of the Hashashin group, the radical Shia Ismaili Islamic group, which was born and formed a terror force in the 11th to 13th centuries AD. Hashashin was formed by Hasan Al Sabah, a figure in the Shia Ismaili group, who broke away from the group and formed a new group called Nizari Ismaili - the official name of the Hashashin group / sect.

Under the leadership of Hasan Al Sabah, Nizari Ismaili was known as a terror group and was greatly feared by the two major Muslim powers of the time, the Seljuk Empire based in Istanbul (present-day Turkey) and the Abbasid Caliphate based in Baghdad (present-day Iraq). Hasan Al Sabah's group is often identified as part of the strategy of the Fatimid Caliphate based in Cairo (present-day Egypt), against two of its competitors, the Seljuks and the Abbasids. The Hashashin gained notoriety after the group's success in assassinating the vizier of the Seljuk Empire, Nizam Al Mulk in the center of the Seljuk palace hall.

During its development the Hashashin group succeeded in gaining power and had a fairly large area on the border of the Fatimid and Seljuk regions, with various fortifications in the region. Even though they are known as a sect or group of killers, in fact only a small part of the Nizari Ismaili group are actually murderers. Members of this small group are known as fida'i, or people who wholeheartedly believe in the religious foundations of the group. These fida'i become trained killers and are ready to die in carrying out their duties.

During the Crusades, the Hashashin group also fought and killed many Crusader leaders, and was greatly feared — even respected — by some of the Crusader leaders.

Returning to the question of who carried out the first suicide attacks in history, Robert Pape, author of the book Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism, in his interview with, believes the first suicide attacks were carried out by members of the Zealots, a Jewish political movement in the first century AD that aimed to drive Roman powers from their holy land. The tactic of the Zealots was usually to approach a Roman soldier in a crowd, then kill him with a knife, often slitting the soldier's throat. The Zealot member who carried out the attack realized that he would immediately be killed or executed by the Roman soldiers who were around the scene.

Although there are differences of opinion about who carried out the first suicide attack in history, everyone admits that the first suicide attack using a bomb took place in Russia on March 13, 1881. The perpetrator was Ignaty Grinevitsky, a member of the People's Will group. ), a left-wing terror organization aimed at assassinating Alexander II, then Emperor of Russia.

Alexander II's killer was hanged (source: WikiCommons)

The People's Will carried out a number of actions to assassinate Alexander II using dynamite and bombs between 1879 and early 1881. All these attempted assassinations failed, until Grinevistky finally succeeded.

The action was not planned as a suicide attack. Grinevitsky and a colleague planned an ambush on Alexander II's entourage, using small hand-thrown bombs, whose dangerous radius was only 1 meter. Grinevitsky's colleague threw a bomb at the train carrying Alexander at close range, but only managed to damage the train, and the person was immediately arrested. Grinevitsky, who was still there, apparently saw a chance he could throw himself into Alexander II's carriage with a bomb. So there was the world's first suicide bombing, with the perpetrator a leftist terrorist and the victim an emperor.

Since Grinevitsky's actions, many acts of terror to kill important people have been carried out by members of the left-wing groups in Russia - and many have done so with suicide attacks, although not always successful. But it cannot be said that the suicide attacks were organized actions or were intended as suicides.

The pattern in Russia is the same as the pattern of terror attacks by the Zealot group in the first century AD, which was also carried out by the fida'is in the Nizari Ismaili or Hashashin groups, namely that there was no organizational plan or order for terrorists to carry out suicide attacks. The suicide attack was carried out as an individual tactical decision of his terrorist - where the situation on the ground made him have to make that decision - when carrying out attacks on his target. There is also no record of any organization recruiting and indoctrinating its members to carry out the specific task of suicide attacks. What is certain is that there are always ideological and political reasons for these acts of terror.

The world's first organized and systematic suicide attack, not by a terror organization, but by a country: Japan. We are probably already familiar with the term Kamikaze, which was phenomenal at the end of the Pacific War.

The Japanese Empire launched more than 3,000 suicide attacks, carried out systematically through the recruitment of civilians into the Tokubetsu Kogekitai or special attack units. The suicide attack was carried out by flying a plane that was designed to be a flying bomb and controlled by a pilot who was about to crash his plane into the United States naval fleet. The purpose of the suicide attack was to weaken the morale of the opponent, by showing that the Japanese people were fanatical people and would take any form of resistance if the United States invaded Japan.

They succeeded in achieving that goal, not only in times of war, but also today, because the world sees this action as a milestone that a suicide attack is carried out not only to kill the enemy, but above all a message to intimidate the opponent or a threat. for a more dangerous attack. The definition of a suicide attack as a message has been used by terrorists until now.

Since World War II ended, there has been no record of organized and systematic suicide attacks — either by the state or by terror organizations — until the 1980s. Another suicide attack took place again in 1983, this time by a political party in Lebanon: Hizbullah (Party of Allah). The attack, which took place on October 23, 1983 at 6:45 a.m., was carried out by Hezbollah members driving a truck filled with tons of explosives, and blew themselves up in the building that was the headquarters for US marines serving as peacekeepers in the Lebanese civil war. Apart from the assailant, the death toll was 241 US soldiers. Almost at the same time as the attack on US army headquarters, Hezbollah's suicide bombing took place on the headquarters of the French parachute forces, which killed 58 French soldiers.

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Although the attack was carried out by Hezbollah, many parties - especially the United States and its allies - believe it was Iran, which designed and organized the Lebanese Shiite group to attack Western and Israeli interests in the region. This belief was reinforced by many statements from Iranian leaders who glorified the suicide bombing in Lebanon, while also being tracked that the country was providing supplies of experts and explosives to make car bombs. Therefore, the Hizbullah action was not an action based on religious beliefs alone, but an action which was a marriage between religious fanaticism and the politics of war between countries.

Hezbollah's first suicide bombing received worldwide attention, and was even copied by opponents in Lebanon's civil war, namely the Christian and secular camps. Finally over the years Lebanon became the scene of suicide bomb attacks from various warring sides, and only died down in the late 1980s.

Hezbollah's suicide bombing tactic apparently gave an idea to the rebel group in Sri Lanka, the Liberation Tiger of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) or the Tamil Tigers. Many Tamil Tiger militias were sent to Lebanon to learn from Hezbollah tactics for suicide bombing. The Tamil guerrillas then practiced it in a rebellion in Sri Lanka, and were given a special forum called the Black Tiger.

From 1987 to 2003, the LTTE carried out at least 137 suicide bomb attacks. From that many attacks, they managed to kill two heads of state, namely the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Ranasinghe Premadasa, and the Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi. Five members of the Sri Lankan cabinet were also listed as victims of the LTTE suicide bombings.

The LTTE suicide bomb attacks stopped in 2009, after their leader, Vellupillai Prabakharan, was killed by Sri Lankan forces. Although now the LTTE has been annihilated, the terror organization contributed significantly to the suicide bomb attack equipment, namely the bomb belt, which can be worn under clothing. The bomb belts created by the LTTE were later copied and used by suicide bombers in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.

The suicide bombing attacks by the LTTE also further prove that not only religious fanatics are capable of carrying out this fatal act, but also groups without a religious agenda are capable of doing it.

Entering the 1990s, suicide bomb attacks penetrated Israel, carried out by Palestinian resistance groups, namely Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The suicide bomb attacks on targets in Israel have a direct link to Hezbollah, because it is the party that trains members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad in carrying out effective suicide bomb attacks.

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The attacks by Hamas and Islamic Jihad have the same motive as Hezbollah in Lebanon, namely religious fanaticism intertwined with political interests. However, in the early 2000s, suicide bomb attacks against Israel began to be carried out by the secular faction in Palestine, namely Fatah through the Al-Aqsa Brigades as its military wing.

Based on the records of Action On Armed Violence, Palestinian resistance groups carried out 103 suicide bomb attacks against Israel, many of which were aimed directly at Israeli civilians. The total number of victims of Palestinian suicide attacks was recorded at 742, and injured 4,899 people. However, according to Israeli government data, between 2000 and 2005 there were 147 suicide bomb attacks, and Israeli authorities succeeded in thwarting 450 suicide bomb attacks on Israel.

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Palestinians offer justification for Palestinian suicide bomb attacks on Israeli civilian populations. In the view of the Palestinian resistance group, Israel is a military state, because all its citizens are obliged to follow the compulsory military service, and thus all Israeli citizens can be viewed as military personnel. Furthermore, Israeli civilians are an extension of the Israeli state in the program of occupation and expansion of Israeli settlements into Palestinian territories. And most fundamentally, the Palestinian resistance groups view the suicide bombing as retaliation for the Israeli military's killing of many Palestinian civilians.

The Palestinian suicide bomb attacks heralded the era of suicide bombings aimed at terrorizing the entire enemy population, not just the military.

Suicide Bombs and Transnational Terrorist Organizations
In subsequent developments, suicide bomb attacks were used as a method by the transnational terrorist group, Al Qaeda. In contrast to Hezbollah in Lebanon, or Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Fatah in Palestine, which carry out suicide bomb attacks in the interests of religion, politics and their national territory, terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda wage wars for religious reasons and to drive away US influence. and its allies from Muslim countries, but there is no nationalism agenda - compare, for example, Hezbollah, Hamas, and the LTTE. This means that Al Qaeda does not appear to have a tendency to carry out terror for the sake of obtaining territorial territory or to establish a state, and its members come from various countries, as well as having affiliated organizations in various countries.

Ironically, Al Qaeda itself was born from the war between the Soviet Union (Russia) and Afghanistan, in which the United States and Saudi Arabia provided support in the form of money and weapons to Afghan guerrillas and Muslim militias from various countries - including Indonesia - to fight the invasion of the Union. Soviets against Afghanistan. Al Qaeda was formed from these militias and instead attacked the interests of the United States and its allies, after the Soviet Union left Afghanistan.

Al Qaeda launched the first suicide bombing in 1995 on US military headquarters in Saudi Arabia, which killed five people. Then in 1998 the leadership of Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden issued a fatwa stating that all Americans are the target of attack. On 7 August 1998 Al Qaeda launched two simultaneous suicide attacks on the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 223 people.

Then on September 11, 2001, Al Qaeda launched a suicide attack using two civilian airline planes, blowing up the WTC twin towers in New York and the Pentagon Building, killing nearly 3,000 people, and setting the world on fire in the war on terrorism to this day.

The war against terrorism, which placed Afghanistan as the first target for the invasion of the United States and its allies (because Al Qaeda was protected by the Taliban, the ruler of Afghanistan at that time), continued on to Iraq, which brought down Saddam Hussein's regime. The United States' invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq left these two countries in ruins and became a field of prolonged terror attacks.

In Iraq alone, between 2004 and 2010 there were at least 1,003 suicide bomb attacks that killed 12,000 civilians. Civilians are not only accidental victims of warfare, but become real targets. The terror attacks in Iraq occurred as a result of the changing political map of the country after the fall of Saddam Hussein's government, in which the Sunni minority who during Saddam Hussein's rule became the dominant group in politics and government, was displaced by the Shia majority to get more shares in the new Iraqi government.

The conflict between Muslim sects in Iraq marked the era of a new bloody struggle on a large scale, between Shia and Sunnis, and spread throughout the Arab peninsula, even to Indonesia. Terrorist groups, such as Al Qaeda — which has a Sunni sect — piggybacked on the conflict, and made the map of the conflict even more complicated. The suicide bomb attacks, apart from targeting allied forces, also extended to the bombing of mosques and Shiite shrines.

Terror attacks then spread throughout the world, ranging from attacks within the United States and European countries, as well as to Africa and Asia — including Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore. The terror attacks were not only aimed at attacking state and government institutions, but also attacking groups considered to be enemies, such as Shiites and followers of other religions. This pattern of attacks is reflected in the activity of terrorists and radical Muslim groups in Indonesia.

Arab Spring and Changing Terror Map
Terrorist groups in subsequent developments found new fertile ground in the political upheaval of the Middle East, known as the Arab Spring phenomenon, in which citizens long under dictatorial regimes launched insurgencies. The Arab Spring began in Tunisia on December 18, 2010, when a popular revolution overthrew the dictatorial regime of Zine el Ebidine el Ali, and made the dictator run away and be granted asylum by Saudi Arabia. Then the revolution spread to Egypt, where Hosni Mubarak's regime was overthrown. Furthermore, Libya was rocked by a bloody revolution, which involved allied forces to take sides in the rebel camp, and succeeded in overthrowing and killing Moamar Qadafi and his family.

Then the revolution continued to Syria, which aimed to overthrow the regime of Bashar Al Assad. But this time the revolution actually dragged on wildly. The civilian revolution turned into a sectarian conflict, with Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies funding Sunnis to carry out an armed uprising against the Shia regime of Bashar Al Assad. Al Qaeda also entered the conflict through terrorist groups nascent in Syria. Meanwhile, Bashar Al Assad to deal with attacks by his enemies at home and abroad is assisted by his allies, Iran and Russia, as well as getting supplies from the militia from Lebanon, namely Hezbollah, which has been getting financial and weapons assistance from Syria and Iran - and also supplies of Shia militias from Iraq.

When Syria became a new battlefield between Sunnis and Shiites, countries that had previously succeeded in overthrowing dictators, turned into a hotbed of terrorist groups and religious fundamentalists, such as in Tunisia and Libya. Egypt even reversed the result of the revolution, in which the military — which was the right hand of Hosni Mubarak's regime — succeeded in seizing the stage of power, and criminalizing the government dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood group. Not only that, with the help of the Saudi Arabian political lobby, the Muslim Brotherhood has even changed its status: it has been designated a world terrorist organization by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt.

Meanwhile the conflict in Syria gave birth to a new situation: among the rebels there was division, and gave birth to a new group which was a splinter of Al Qaeda, namely the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or also known as the Islamic State of Iraq. and Levant (ISIL). ISIS has quickly turned into a frightening monster, by annexing a vast area including the Syrian and Iraqi borders, the Syrian and Egyptian borders, even controlling parts of Libya. ISIS is also famous for its cruelty in treating enemies.

The birth of ISIS made the map of the world's terrorist organizations change. Some of the terror organizations that were affiliated with Al Qaeda changed their affiliation to ISIS, but some remain with affiliations to Al Qaeda. Between Al Qaeda and ISIS is also raging war, both in Syria, and in other countries, such as in Afghanistan.
ISIS marks a new era in the global war on terrorism, in which a terrorist organization declares a new country and sucks in new followers from all over the world. Suicide bomb attacks were also carried out by ISIS and ISIS-affiliated groups, especially in Iraq, Afghanistan and North Africa as well as a series of acts of terror that spread throughout the world, including Indonesia. (Zaky Yamani, freelance writer)

Reading material

“A Look at the History of Suicide Attacks”, Opinion, National Public Radio, 19 July 2005,
Ahmed, Nafeez, “Unworthy Victims: Western Wars Have Killed Four Million Muslims Since 1990”,
Demirzen, Ismail, “A Sociological Perspective to Suicide Bombing”, Istanbul Universitesi, Ilahiyat Fakultesi, 2011
“Handbook on Children Recruited and Exploited by Terrorist and Violent Extremist Groups: The Role of the Justice System”, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2017
Hilal, Maha, “The War on Terror Has Targeted Muslim Almost Exclusively”, in Foreign Policy in Focus, 11 September 2017,
Horowitz, Michael C, “The Rise and Spread of Suicide Bombing”, in Annual Review of Political Science Vol. 18: 69-84, May 2015,
Lewis, Jeffrey William, “The Human Use of Human Beings: A Brief History of Suicide Bombing”, in Origins Vol. 6, Issue 7, History Departments at The Ohio State University, April 2013,
Munir, Muhammad, “Suicide Attacks and Islamic Law”, in International Review of the Red Cross, Volume 90 Number 869, March 2008
"Number of Casualties Due to Terrorism Worldwide between 2006 and 2016", Statista The Statistic Portal,
"Number of Worldwide Kidnappings Due to Terrorism from 2007 to 2016", Statista The Statistic Portal,
Overton, Iain and Dodd, Henry, “A Short History of Suicide Bombing”, 23 August 2013,
Poushter, Jacob et al, "Concern about Islamic Extremism on the Rise in Middle East, Negative Opinions of Al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah Widespread", Pew Research Center, 2014
Sawicki, John, “A Tragic Tren, Why Terrorists Use Female And Child Suicide Bombers”, in the journal Health Progress, www,, July-August 2016
“Suicide Bombing Terrorism During The Current Israeli-Palestinian Confrontation (September 2000-December 2005)”, Intelligence and Terrorism Center at the Center for Special Studied, January 2006

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