Terrorism usually results from multiple causal factors—not only psychological but also economic, political, religious, and sociological factors, among others. There is even an hypothesis that it is caused by physiological factors, as discussed below. Because terrorism is a multicausal phenomenon, it would be simplistic and erroneous to explain an act of terrorism by a single cause, such as the psychological need of the terrorist to perpetrate an act of violence.
Below are the common types of terrorism. Although some groups do not fit neatly into any one category, the general typologies are important because all terrorist campaigns are different, and the mindsets of groups within the same general category tend to have more in common than those in different categories.
Nationalist terrorism is practiced by individuals belonging to an identifiable organization with a well-defined command-and-control structure, clear objectives and a comprehensible ideology. They target ambassadors, bankers, and dignitaries - the symbols which they blame for their economic or political repression. They also issue statements to the media taking credit for and explaining their actions. Nationalist Terrorists seek to form a separate state for their own national group.
This type of terrorist group includes the following:
- Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) (Euzkadi Ta Askatasuna)
One of the world's oldest separatist groups who have fought for decades to establish an independent Basque region, an area about 100 square miles between Spain and France. Robbery, kidnapping and extortion are their main activities. They have effectively sabotaged Spanish and French tourism, electoral processes, and seem to favor attacks on nuclear power plants. No one knows how large they are or who is sponsoring them, but the Spaniards suspect Latin American support.
- Irish Republican Army
The model known as Irish terrorism is a model for nationalistic terrorism, but it also is a strong religious struggle between the Catholics and the Protestants. The defamation and oppression the Irish suffered at the hands of the British caused the Irish Republican Army (IRA) to be formed. It began on Easter in 1916, when the town of Dublin was demolished by British artillery. The IRA was formed that day, and led by Michael Collins, a student of Russian anarchism and terrorism. Murder and chaos followed until a brief peace came after creation of independent Southern Ireland (the Republic of Ireland) in 1921. The struggle then shifted to Northern Ireland, where the British continued to tighten their hold by creating a semi-military police force. Sporadic violent acts of terrorism continued until 1994 when peace talks began, and a cease-fire was agreed to. The cease-fire was seen by some as surrender and created another IRA terrorist group - the Real IRA - which is the group officially recognized as a foreign terrorist organization.
- Kurdish Worker's Party (PKK)
One of the world's largest nationalist terrorist groups, who have fought for decades to establish a Kurdish statehood. There are some 20 million Kurds living in diasporas, many in Iraq which have been the victims of chemical weapons by the Iraqi government, others in places like Germany. The PKK operate in Turkey and Europe, train in Lebanon, and are supported by Syria and Iran. They are very ruthless, killing non-sympathetic Kurds as well as innocent Turks, and have killed more than 10,000 people in village massacres. They are also good at stealing arms from Turkish and NATO military bases. Frustrated by the absence of U.S. and U.N. involvement in their cause, they have embraced anti-Western sentiment in recent years, kidnapping and killing Western tourists.
- The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)
The PLO cause is hard to categorize because not only are they considered a nationalist terrorist group seeking to establish a Palestinian state, but they are religious terrorists seeking to destroy Israel and they are a state sponsored group funded by various Islamic states and organizations. Founded in 1964 at the first Arab summit meeting, Yasir Arafat, became chairman of the PLO in 1968. The PLO has been committed to the destruction of Israel, and over the years involved in acts of terrorism. Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 and dispersed many PLO terrorists, and in 2002 again launched a campaign in the West Bank.
Religion has long been associated with terrorism and religious terrorists seek to use violence to further what they see as divinely commanded purposes. Religious terrorism has no military objective. A holy war is endless because it has a spiritual objective and no one ever truly knows when God is pleased. It is for this reason that religious terrorism can be the most dangerous type of terrorism. Religious terrorists also do not consider themselves terrorists, but regard themselves as religious activists or militants.
It can be said that religious terrorists have an inferior and fatalistic philosophy. They see themselves constantly fighting a never-ending battle against a superior, overpowering, demonized enemy, or the Great Satan. Thus, the greatest fear is if weapons of mass destruction are used by religious terrorists because they have no fear of destroying themselves in the process.
The al-Qaeda was established and fostered by the CIA and Usama Bin Ladin in the late 1980s. The purpose was to bring together Arabs to fight in Afghanistan against the Soviet invasion. Al-Qaeda was assisted greatly by the CIA in the 1980's during a huge covert operation against Soviet troops. The CIA trained mujahideen forces who murdered teachers, doctors and nurses, tortured women for not wearing the veil, and shot down civilian airliners with U.S.-supplied stinger missiles. Nevertheless, many of these mujahideen probably never knew they were being funded by the CIA. Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Adviser to the Carter Administration, in January 1998 confirmed this in an interview with the French publication Le Nouvel Observateur. Al-Qaeda eventually turned against their benefactors and under the ultra-extremist views of Usama Bin Ladin issued a statement under the banner of "the World Islamic Front for Jihad Against the Jews and Crusaders" in February 1998, saying it was the duty of all Muslims to kill U.S. citizens - civilian or military - and their supporters.
- Chechn Rebels
The Chechens are Muslims who declared their independence in 1991 and defeated the Russians in a ground war from 1994-1996. There is evidence of a Chechen connection to an al-Qaeda terrorist network, and indeed, some Chechen militants fought alongside al-Qaeda and Taliban forces against the U.S. and Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. Chechen terrorism has spread throughout the region, in the form of bombings and kidnappings mostly, into Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Moscow itself. Chechen terrorists are financed by the Chechen mafia as well as with Saudi money and Arab relief fronts. Both Chechen and Russian mafia groups have been involved in the nuclear black market, smuggling depleted plutonium, cesium, and other radioactive material that makes "dirty" bombs. In fact, in 1995, an incident of a radiological bomb took place in which Chechen terrorists placed an explosive device with cesium-138, a radioactive substance from nuclear power reactors, in downtown Moscow, and then phoned in the threat. Fortunately, that device was disarmed before it could explode.
- The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA)
The LRA is a Christian cult that is a terrorist group fighting the Ugandan government, with backing from Sudan and Christian charity foundations. Their leaders, excommunicated Catholics have promised followers immunity from bullets if certain ointments are applied to their bodies. According to UNICEF, they have kidnapped at least 10,000 boys and girls, raising the boys to become warriors and the girls to become domestic sex slaves. On March 17, 2000, there was a mass suicide of 591 cult members. One of their beliefs involves hastening doomsday by spreading AIDS through the rape of girls and women. Another involves training boys to attack their home villages and kill their childhood family and friends.
State-sponsored terrorism, occurs when a patron state provides political, economic, or military support to a group of people or organization in a host nation to achieve strategic ends by perpetrating aggressive terrorism on the patron's behalf. It is a low-cost alternative to conventional warfare, and convenient for sponsors who do not wish to be known, are afraid of defeat, or do not wish to appear as the aggressor. This type of terrorism is most likely to involve weapons of mass destruction.
Countries determined by the Secretary of State to have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism are designated pursuant to three laws: section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act, section 40 of the Arms Export Control Act, and section 620A of the Foreign Assistance Act. Taken together, the four main categories of sanctions resulting from designation under these authorities include restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance; a ban on defense exports and sales; certain controls over exports of dual use items; and miscellaneous financial and other restrictions.
State terrorism has been defined as acts of terrorism conduc ted by governments or terrorism carried out directly by, or encouraged and funded by, an es tablished government of a state (country) or terrorism practiced by a government against its own people or in support of international terrorism. “State terrorism” is as controversial a concept as that of terrorism itself.
Terrorism is often, though not always, defined in terms of four characteristics: (1) the threat or us e of violence; (2) a political objective; the desire to change the status quo; (3) the intention to spread fear by committing spectacular public acts; (4) the intentional targeting of civilians. This last element - targeting innocent civilians - is problematic when one tries to distinguish state terrorism from other forms of state violence.
Left-wing terrorists are out to destroy capitalism and replace it with a communist or socialist regime. Violent left-wing domestic extremism involves primarily the Earth Liberation Front and the associated Animal Liberation Front. Supporters of these organizations pursue a political agenda by using what they call "direct action" against individuals, companies, and government installations believed to be involved in damaging the environment or abusing or exploiting animals. Direct action includes arson, fire-bombings, acts of vandalism, and physical attacks. Because their direct action is illegal, these organizations have no formal leadership, membership, or official spokesperson. They consist of individual affinity groups or cells that may be only loosely connected with each other and are usually self-funded. They typically publicize their actions under the banner of Earth Liberation Front or Animal Liberation Front.
Other international left-wing terrorist groups include:
- Italian Red Brigades (BR or Brigate Rosse)
An ultra left-wing group active from 1967-1985 who committed over 14,000 terrorist attacks and crippled the Italian government. They murdered the former Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro in 1978, kidnapped US Army Brigadier General James Dozier in 1981, and claimed responsibility for murdering Leamon Hunt, US chief of the Sinai Multinational Observer Group in 1984.
- The Red Army Faction (RAF)
A terrorist group descended from the Baader Meinhof Gang (BMG) and German Red Army, and has an ideology that it is committing terrorism on behalf of the oppressed Third World. The BMG picked victims with ethnic-sounding names out of a phone book. The RAF fought to free the BMG founders from prison and later turned their attention to the anti-NATO movement. The BMG leaders mixed pornography and group sex with their ideological indoctrination. Like most European left-wing groups, RAF merged into Direct Action, an umbrella terrorist group, to create the appearance of a super-terrorist united front. In the late 1970s, it was reported that RAF members were training other terrorists in bacteriological warfare at Palestinian camps.
- Japanese Red Army (JRA)
A far-East left-wing group formed in 1969 by the Young Communists who hijacked an airliner to North Korea. The group split into a Domestic branch (led by Mori Tsuneo) and an International branch (led by a female-Shigenobu Fusako). The Domestic Branch became cult-like with its leader Mori murdering most of his followers. In the 1980's, Shigenobu moved to Beirut to join the Palestinians in fighting capitalism by attacking Israel. Shigenobu's group was backed by Syria, North Korea and others, and became an international terrorist ring. Due to their bloody rampage at Lod Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, in May 1972, in which Red Army members slaughtered 20 people and injured about 80, they earned hero status in the Middle East, and especially from Palestinians. From 1985-1999, Shigenobu masterminded successful attacks against Western interests in Europe, Asia, and even on US soil in New Jersey. In November 2000, she was captured by Japanese police and was arrested in Takatsuki, Osaka Prefecture.
Right-wing terrorists are among the least organized terrorists, often associated with neo-Nazis, who seek to do away with liberal democratic governments and create fascist states in their place. The American right wing is composed of several overlapping movements. None of them are new actors on the terrorist stage. The most recent are decades old and the oldest have roots that reach deep into the last century. Most U.S. domestic terrorism incidents in the last decade can be assigned to individuals participating in one or more of these four movements. Due to convergence, right-wing terrorists usually have roles within more than one movement. Weapons of mass destruction (WMD) have been a constant theme in right-wing terrorist rhetoric for decades.
Examples of this type of group are:
- Wise Use
A network of front groups which provide political support for resource extraction industries like timber, mining, and grazing; polluters; real estate interests; and other opponents of environmental regulation. Wise Use is the least violent of the four movements. Wise Use’s importance to right-wing terrorism is due to its considerable influence with government (i.e. control of local governments, “ecoterrorist” hoaxes and subversion of law enforcement agencies.)
After the 1977 Rowe v. Wade decision, abortion opponents organized into a network devoted to thwarting access to abortion. By the early 1980’s, terrorism became a widespread strategy for militant factions. Anti-abortion terrorists have used toxic chemicals, bombs, incendiaries, assassination and are currently using threats of biological agents.
- Klan / Neo-Nazi
The oldest and most violent. They comprise approximately one third of militant white supremacists: the overtly racialist segment. They are the innovators and advocates of strategy and tactics involving the use of WMD. The Klan and neo-nazi groups have had active paramilitary groups for decades.
Also based in white supremacy, more numerous than the Klan/neo-nazi movement. Nativist, rather than racialist, Patriots portray themselves as “defending the Constitution.” The movement resulted from the merger of the extreme anti-communist right with white supremacy during the late 1950’s. Beginning in 1992, they drew upon their involvement in Wise Use, anti-abortion and anti-gun control movements to organize paramilitary groups.
Anarchism is a belief that society should have no government, laws, police, or any other authority. Having that belief is perfectly legal, and the majority of anarchists in the U.S. advocate change through non-violent, non-criminal means. A small minority, however, believes change can only be accomplished through violence and criminal acts…and that, of course, is against the law.
Anarchist extremism is nothing new to the FBI. One of our first big cases occurred in 1919, when the Bureau of Investigation (as we were called then) investigated a series of anarchist bombings in several U.S. cities. And during the 1970s, the FBI investigated anarchist extremists such as the Weather Underground Organization, which conducted a series of bombing campaigns.
Anarchist terrorism, from the 1870s until about 1920, was a major global phenomenon. Groups seeking to overthrow established governments launched a wave of bombings and assassinated a series of heads of state. President William McKinley was a victim, killed in 1901 by a young Hungarian refugee influenced by anarchist sentiments. Some experts see signs of a new interest in anarchist violence arising out of the recent wave of protests against globalization.
Terrorism Attack Types
Agroterrorism is the act of any person, knowingly or maliciously, committing an allegation, threat, or incident of deliberate use of chemical/biological weapons to destroy pre-harvest crops or livestock, in order to cause economic damage.
Examples of allegations or incidents of agroterrorism are:
- In 1943, Richard Ford, a prominent British naturalist, made the accusation that Germany dropped Colorado Potato Beetles on the UK during WWII, accounting for their unusual appearance in parts of the UK. The Colorado potato beetle is the most serious insect pest of potatoes. Both the striped beetle and the black-spotted, red larva feed on potato leaves. Their damage can greatly reduce yield and even kill plants. In addition to potato, Colorado potato beetle can be a serious pest of tomato, eggplant, and pepper. Also, the Colorado potato beetle is notorious for its ability to rapidly develop resistance to insecticides that are used repeatedly for control. According to Ford, the bombs were made of cardboard and contained fifty to a hundred beetles. The attack was kept secret by the government to avoid public alarm. More recently, Benjamin Garrett disputed Ford's claim, stating that although Germany's Potato Beetle Research Institute did undertake experimentation on offensive capabilities against England, "there is scant evidence to suggest the Colorado potato beetle ever made it into battle." It is Garrett's view that the insect's mysterious appearance in England resulted from accidental introduction, probably via food shipments, and the German program was initially a defensive program established in response to Allied biological weapons research.
- On June 1, 2000, Palestinian news sources reported that Israeli settlers from the Efrat settlement on the West Bank, Israel, had deliberately released sewer water into agricultural fields maintained by Palestinian settlers in the village of Khadder, near Bethlehem, Israel. According to local farmers, the release of the waste water was part of an annual tradition designed to force the Palestinian farmers off of their land. If the farmers were forced to leave, the Israeli settlers could annex the areas. Farmers had estimated their losses to be approximately 5,000 dollars.
- During 1962-1970, in its fight against North Vietnam and their guerilla clients in the South, the U.S. military used four types of air-sprayed herbicides, including Agent Orange (Tetrachlorodibenzodioxin), for the purpose of defoliation and crop destruction to deprive the enemy of food and places to hide. Agent Orange was the code name for a herbicide developed for the military, primarily for use in tropical climates. Although the genesis of the product goes back to the 1940's, serious testing for military applications did not begin until the early 1960's. Agent Orange was a 50-50 mix of two chemicals, known conventionally as 2,4,D and 2,4,5,T. The combined product was mixed with kerosene or diesel fuel and dispersed by aircraft, vehicle, and hand spraying. An estimated 19 million gallons of Agent Orange were used in South Vietnam during the war. The earliest health concerns about Agent Orange were about the product's contamination with TCDD, or dioxin. TCDD is one of a family of dioxins, some found in nature, and are cousins of the dibenzofurans and pcb's.
- On October 22, 1997, Palestinian news sources reported that Israeli settlers from Gosh Etzion sprayed a chemical on Arab grape farms in the Ertas and Khader villages south of Bethlehem. It is estimated that the Israelis ruined hundreds of grapevine trees and up to 17,000 metric tons of grapes.
The unlawful use, or threatened use, of microorganisms or toxins derived from living organisms to produce death or disease in humans, animals, or plants. The act is intended to create fear and/or intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of political, religious, or ideological goals.
One of the world’s most serious known bio-weapon outbreaks occurred in the Ural Mountains east of Moscow at Yekaterinburg. In April, 1979, the military microbiology lab, known as Compound 19, emitted a cloud of human inhalation anthrax spores that spread downwind killing 68 people and contaminating livestock and food sources. A study from Harvard University, based on research at the scene, noted the absence of any victims under the age of 24. In February, 1998, the Washington Post reported that a news conference in Moscow revealed the 1979 leak did not release anthrax, but some kind of “new biological weapon” that was designed to target middle-aged men.
Establishing the truth about any biological weapons programs is ambiguous because research on defensive means, such as vaccines, and on offensive weapons involves identical equipment.
Bioterrorism comes in many forms: A super-virus leak into the general population from a secret bio-research facility; contaminated experimental vaccines injected into Gulf War soldiers; an unscrupulous pharmaceutical company creating a retrovirus, then revealing the miracle cures and vaccines for profit; a terrorist suitcase left in a New York subway; military bio-quarantine containments and social controls; and the threat of biological warfare.
Human skin is virus-proof, but the vulnerable areas of the body are eyelids, lips, mucous membranes and open cuts. However, these can all be covered or protected with readily available biohazard equipment.
A terrorist attack aimed at crippling the country's networking infrastructure through the use of viruses, worms, etc., which also results in violence against persons or property. For the term “cyberterrorism” to have any meaning, we must be able to differentiate it from other kinds of computer abuse such as computer crime, economic espionage, or information warfare. Thus, more narrowly, cyberterrorism is the premeditated, politically motivated attack against information, computer systems, computer programs, and data which result in violence against noncombatant targets by sub national groups or clandestine agents.
The National Infrastructure Protection Center, an interagency anti-cyberterrorism unit at the FBI, has said that while there have been few cyberterrorism incidents, the organization is watching for such events.
The topic of cyberterrorism has been a key priority for IT executives and business leaders since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The issue was brought to the forefront by a massive, but unsuccessful denial-of-service cyberattack that occurred on October 21, 2002 that was meant to disrupt the Internet's 13 main domain name root servers. The FBI is investigating the incident.
Ecoterrorism was founded in Brighton, England, during the 1970's by Earth First! members who refused to abandon criminal acts as a tactic when others wished to mainstream Earth First!. Ecoterrorism involves extremist views on environmental issues and animal rights which go beyond mainstream environmentalists and animal activists to acts of violence justified on grounds that mainstream efforts aren't enough. Ecoterrorism is not environmentalism.
Environmentalists work within the system for preservation; ecoterrorists want to destroy civilization as we know it in order to save the planet. The FBI list the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and Earth Liberation Front (ELF) as the top domestic terrorism threats. The FBI estimates, that since 1996, the two groups have committed over 600 criminal acts in the U.S. causing more than $43 million in damage.
Despite increased FBI scrutiny, the ELF continues to push forward its vandalism agenda in the name of protecting the environment. During a 2002 highway construction project south of Lake Erie, ceramic and metal spikes were driven into trees and a construction crane also fell victim to arson.
Narco-terrorism does not refer to a method of attack, but rather to a description of the link between narcotics trafficking and terrorism. It involves being a direct or indirect participant in drug trafficking and using the profits to advance or finance terrorist activities.
Drug related terrorism may very well be the most destructive aspect of international terrorism in the decade of the nineties. Narcoterrorism refers to the linkages between, and indeed the fusing of, international terror organizations and the international drug cartels. Both groups operate with underground infrastructures and engage in societal disruption through violence. Narcoterrorism is a weapons system that can be aimed, either with precision or with random effect, upon target societies to terrorize, disrupt, subvert, or destabilize them.
A good example of the narcoterrorist at work can be found in Colombia, a country under siege by both drug cartels and political terrorists. Since August 1989, the Medellin cartel, considered the most violent of the Colombian cartels, dramatically escalated its attacks upon the national government. In response to attempted government assaults on drug operations, the cartel unleashed a reign of terror on Colombiansociety. A leading presidential candidate was assassinated as were senior police officials and judges.
The appearance and character of the terrorist threat to both government and private enterprise has changed and expanded during the past 10 years. The recurring image of the Middle Eastern terrorist slipping across borders with forged passports has been enlarged to include the indiscriminate violence associated with the narcoterrorist.
A terrorist attack utilizing a weapon of mass destruction (WMD), i.e. the use of a chemical, biological, nuclear or radiological weapon. WMD terrorism is not a new phenomenon; in March 1995, the Japanese doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo released sarin nerve agent in the Tokyo subway, killing 12 people and injuring over a thousand.
As we all know, mass-casualty terrorism is also not new to the United States. Along with Bin Laden, believed to be responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks, right-wing activist, Timothy McVeigh, on April 1995, used a truck bomb to destroy the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people and injuring more than 700.
Terrorists seeking a WMD capability would need either to develop their own weapons, as did Aum Shinrikyo, or recruit unemployed weapons scientists, steal materials or weapons, or obtain WMD from a state sponsor. The U.S. government accuses some countries of sponsoring terrorism, including Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, and Syria. The U.S. government has also determined that these countries currently possess one or more types of WMD.
- The Sociology and Psychology of Terrorism: Who Becomes a Terrorist and Why: http://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/pdf-files/Soc_Psych_of_Terrorism.pdf
- The Sociology and Psychology of Terrorism: Who Becomes a Terrorist and Why: http://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/pdf-files/Soc_Psych_of_Terrorism.pdf
- Image Source: http://www.defense.gov/Photos/NewsPhoto.aspx?NewsPhotoID=3092 [Accessed: January 14, 2014]
- U.S. Army War College – 55 Trends Now Shaping the Future of Terrorism: http://www.carlisle.army.mil/proteus/docs/55-terror.pdf
The National Counterterrorism Center – http://nctc.gov/site/groups/index.html
- Strategic Studies Institute – The Origins of New Terrorism: http://strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/parameters/articles/04spring/morgan.pdf
- U.S. Department of State – State Sponsors of Terrorism: http://www.state.gov/j/ct/list/c14151.htm
- Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs – Various Definitions of Terrorism: http://www.azdema.gov/museum/famousbattles/pdf/Terrorism%20Definitions%20072809.pdf
- Defense Human Resources Activity (DHRA) – Other Violent Extremist Movements: http://www.dhra.mil/perserec/osg/terrorism/other-violent-extremists.htm
- FBI – The Terrorist Threat Confronting the United States: http://www.fbi.gov/news/testimony/the-terrorist-threat-confronting-the-united-states
- FBI – Domestic Terrorism Anarchist Extremism: A Primer: http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2010/november/anarchist_111610/anarchist_111610
- FBI – Agroterrorism: http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/law-enforcement-bulletin/february-2012/agroterrorism
- CDC – Bioterrorism Overview: http://emergency.cdc.gov/bioterrorism/overview.asp
- The Navy Department Library – Computer Attack and Cyberterrorism: http://www.history.navy.mil/library/online/computerattack.htm
- FBI – The Threat of Eco-Terrorism: http://www.fbi.gov/news/testimony/the-threat-of-eco-terrorism
- Narco-Terrorism: An increasing threat to U.S. National Security: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a530126.pdf
- U.S. Department of State – Office of Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism (ISN/WMDT): http://www.state.gov/t/isn/c16403.htm