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The Genesis of the On Going Terrorist Movement in
the Middle East
Impacts of Terrorism in the Middle East
Terrorism and Global Security
Terrorism is violence or threat of violence calculated to create an atmosphere of fear or alarm and thereby bring about some social and political changes. This definition is in line with the explanation offered by a South American Jurist more than 30 years ago, according to him “Terrorism consists of acts that are in themselves may be classic-crimes, murder, arson, the use of explosives, but that differ from classic crimes in that they are excited with the deliberate intention of causing panic and terror within an arranged or organized society1. It is the use of violence and most especially the fear it causes among people for political objectives.(2)
It was also defined by the Terrorism Research Center as “the systematic use of physical violence against non combatants but with an audience greater than the immediate victim in mind to create a general climate of fear in a large population in order to affect some kind of political and social changes”(3).
The United States Federal Bureau of investigation (FBI) defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimate or coerce a government, the population or any segment thereof in furtherance of political and social objectives”(4). In basic terms, terrorism is an act of inflicting terror upon the people in the process of achieving personal or political objectives (5).
Although from the above definitions, it can be rightly concluded that there is no precise or widely accepted definition of the concept of terrorism, it is generally believed that terrorism is the use of covert violent actions in order to achieve certain objectives. It is a form of covert attack directed at targets that are outside a certain range of clearly military targets. Though the terrorist attack on the world trade centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington DC constitute a prime case, most terrorist attack are aimed at domestic regimes or other targets within the terrorist own country(7).
Terrorism is not new on the world stage. Northern Ireland had been dealing with terrorists for more than forty years, Israel with Palestinian terrorists for much the same period and Spain with Basque terrorists.
Although the use of terrorism as a political tool extends far back into history, recent decades have seen a rise in the practice for several reasons. One is the overwhelming advantage in weapons that governments usually have over dissident groups. Because many governments are armed with aircraft and other high tech weapons that are unavailable to opposition forces, it has often become nearly suicidal for armed dissidents to use conventional tactics.
Second, terrorists’ targets are now more readily available than in the past: people are more concentrated in urban areas and even in large buildings; there are countless airline flights, and more and more people travel abroad. Third, the mass availability of instant visual news through television and satellite communications makes it easy for terrorists to gain an audience. This is important because terrorism is not usually directed at its victims as such; rather it is intended to frighten others. Fourth, technology has led to the creation of increasingly lethal weapons that terrorists can use to kill and injure large numbers of people. These technological “advances” include biological, chemical, nuclear, and radiological weapons (7).
Terrorists attacks are relatively regular event. In 2000 there were 423 international terrorist attacks – many of these carried out across national borders and there were many other incidents of domestic terrorism. However, through this time, Americans worried little about terrorism for example, in a survey conducted in 1999 that asked Americans to name two or three top foreign policy concerns, only 12 percent of the respondents mentioned terrorism as a worry(8).
This American’s sense of security was shattered by the September 11, 2001 terrorists attacks which included the destruction of the World trade Center, major damage to the pentagon, the crash of a hijacked airliner in Pennsylvania, and the deaths of over 3,000 people.
Soon thereafter President George W. Bush responded by announcing a war on terrorism9. An American led coalition of forces intervened in Afghanistan, toppling the Taliban government that had supported Al Qaeda and attacking Al Qaeda forces in the country. Later President Bush charged that Iraq, Iran and North Korea constituted an “axis of evil” that, among other things were guilty of state terrorism. In March 2003, the United States, in alliance with Great Britain and other countries known as the coalition of the Willing attacked Iraq, arguing in part that Iraq’s support of terrorism made it an international threat and an outlaw nation (10).
Terrorist make use of various means in achieving their aims, irrespective of whether it is individual group or state sponsored terrors. Some of which are briefly stated as follows:
Kidnapping: Seizure of one or more victims are then moved to a hideout. This method is regularly abducted by the Niger Delta Terrorists Movements.
Barricade Hostage: Seizure of a facility with whatever hostages available, these is made cotangent on meeting terrorist demand.
Bombing: Major bombing is the use of any type of explosives or device for terrorist purposes, including those delivered through mail when sufficient demand or casualties occurs, the terrorists group claims responsibility. Example Commuter bombing in 2004 March that killed 191 people and wounded 1,8000. and July 7: London bombings – Bombs explode on one double-decker bus and three London Underground trains, killing 56 people and injuring over 700, occurring on the first day of the 31st G8 Conference. The attacks are the first suicide bombings in Western Europe.
Hijacking: An attempt to seize an airplane, ship or other vehicle with whatever hostage maybe in it, to force some actions or movement to another country upon an agreement by authorities involved to terrorists demand.
Armed attack: An attempt to seize or damage facility with no intent to hold for negotiating purposes.
Assassination: An attempt whether successful or not to kill a pre-selected victim usually with small arms or letter bombs, are executed form this small category, in many cases, there is a specific intended victim.
Sabotage: this is willful destruction of properties by any means including bombing.
Exotic Pollution: The use of exotic substances such as atomic, chemical or biological to contaminate materials of the targeted state. For example, the introduction of mercury into orange shipped form Israel.
Threat for hoax: The stated intent by a terrorist group to carry out an attack or a false alert of authorities about the coming of terrorists attack by a named group.
Most of these means terrorists adopt in carrying out their activities are becoming obsolete because of the fact that most governments that are more effective in combating terrorist elements.
Few governments are as inclined as they were some years ago to release captured terrorists simply to avoid further terrorists attacks. Most government have adopted non concessions, non negotiations politics in dealing with hostage cases or situation.11
Physical security around likely target has increased for example, it has become more difficult now, although it is still possible to smuggle weapons abroad through airlines. Embassies are becoming virtual fortress (especially after the terrorists attack on the United States embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998).
Diplomatic and top executives often travel in armored limousines with armed body guards (for example, the coming of former United States President Bill Clinton into Nigeria and Ghana with armored limousines and several CIA and FBI agents). But despite these undeniable achievements, the total volume of terrorist’s activities in the world has increased. At the same time terrorism has become bloodier and the terrorist seem to be less reluctant to inflict casualties. The latest fear exercise after the September 11th incident is the fear of terrorist making use of instruments of mass destruction in achieving their aims (12).
One aspects of the problem of definition of the term terrorism is the difficulty in distinguishing between terrorism and a freedom fighter for example, the man who attacks a plane and proceeds to kill some or all the passengers.
The man who wrap bomb around his waist and drives into a shopping mall causing maximum damages of government may well be a freedom fighter to his kith and kin.