Suicide attacks 'a stepping stone to paradise'

The suicide bombings in Morocco which killed 41 people came just five days after a Western compound was targeted by bombers in Saudi Arabia.

The suicide bombings in Morocco which killed 41 people came just five days after a Western compound was targeted by bombers in Saudi Arabia.

At least 29 people died in the Arab capital Riyadh after the suicide bombers detonated four explosions.

Today seven more people were killed in a suicide attack in Israel on board a Jerusalem bus while a Palestinian blew himself up on the outskirts of the city.

Many perceive these suicide bombers as glassy-eyed, smiling madmen – but in reality they are sane and often well-educated young men.

They are driven through desperation into killing themselves in an attack on an all-powerful enemy.

And while we treat as tragic the heroes who give their lives in battle, for suicide attackers the fact that their blood is spilled is as, if not more, important than the impact their attacks can have on the enemy.

Inside the mind of a would-be suicide terrorist, the knowledge that their blood will be spilled ensures a place for them and their family in paradise.

Terrorism expert John Potter, of the University of Exeter, said: “There are two things to understand a suicide bomber. The first is that our culture tends to look to preserve life at all costs.

“Other cultures look at this life as merely a stepping stone to the real life. Suicide bombers are looking for a gateway to the next life.

“Secondly, the environmental influences are so strong, the peer pressure for an individual to be seen to be an important person, this is a way for someone to make a mark.”

Rather than sinister military training camps hunting then grooming potential terrorists, the influences are more “insidious,” he said.

“We have the Boys’ Brigade. In other cultures, it seems to be that you should be a freedom fighter. There is a feeling in the family that it is the right thing to do.”

Muslim suicide bombers in particular believe they will reap huge rewards for eternity in return for their act of sacrifice.

All will know by heart the details of the Seven Rewards that come to those who volunteer, among them the forgiveness of all sins, a place in paradise for himself with 72 of the most beautiful virgins as his wives, and places also for 70 of his relatives.

But psychologist and terrorism historian Mike Yardley argues that, even with the seven rewards in mind, it takes a certain desperation to drive a young man to kill himself.

Many suicide bombers are loners, religiously devout men who from a young age feel the need to make the ultimate sacrifice to have any impact in the current world.

“An individual becomes so desperate that they cross the Rubicon into an absolute belief system, where you believe you are the sword of the Lord,” Mr Yardley said.

“Despair has pushed them into this arena of absolute certainty.

“Whatever religion they are, they are extremely dangerous not just to themselves but to others because they have eliminated one of the key elements of all religions, which is faith,” he argued.

“They have substituted faith with absolute belief.”

Killing themselves as well as others was part of “the theatre of terrorism,” he said.

In order to have an impact, terrorists must continually “up the ante”.

“From the aeroplane hijackings of the early 1960s, right through to the apparently unrestrained terrorism of 9/11 and particularly in recent years, to suicide bomb attacks. It is all part of what you might describe as the theatre of terrorism,” he said.

He added: “The whole purpose is to create psychological casualties. In that context, suicide bombers have a particular impact.”

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