Psychology of a suicide bomber

Daily Times, June 18, 2005
What makes a man a suicide bomber?
By Khalid Hasan

WASHINGTON: The growing incidents of suicide bombings in Pakistan has begun to worry the government, no less than the people, according to a report in the Christian Science Monitor.

Filed from Pakistan by the newspaper’s correspondent, Owais Tohid, the report says how suicide bombers are recruited and brainwashed into offering the ultimate sacrifice are now questions of “increasing urgency in Pakistan, which has seen a spate of suicide bombings in recent weeks. These attacks were carried out by splinter groups formed in the wake of the post-9/11 crackdown on militant organisations.

“Smaller and more isolated than their parent organisations, these splinter groups receive financial backing from Al Qaeda and draw their recruits from the ranks of the poor and enraged,” according to investigators. Fateh Mohammad Burfat of the University of Karachi is of the view that this is a new breed, made up of the unemployed and the illiterate who belong to the poorer strata of society. These men perceive US military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan as hostile acts against the Muslim world. They have also been led to believe that a successful suicide attacks will gain them victory here and in the hereafter.

The report also quotes police official Gul Hameed Samoo of Karachi who believes that the splinter groups “provide the new entrants with poisonous extremist literature to brainwash them, and then start giving them responsibilities from shifting weapons to providing refuge to wanted militants.” The leaders recruit them for different purposes, with agendas ranging from killing Shias to liberating Muslims from “infidels.” The new trend of suicide bombings is packaged as a “ticket to Paradise.” The leaders are mostly veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Kashmir and have often trained with Arab militants in Afghanistan.

The mastermind of these groups is assumed to be Al Qaeda, which gets in touch through a courier with the leader of a jihadi splinter group who plans the attack. The attacker is often a “brainwashed” jihadi. In Pakistan, Al Qaeda masterminds are often well educated, but the planners and the bombers themselves often are not. “There are leaders who look out for suicide bombers and usually find the simple, unemployed religious-minded youth with the help of a cleric at a mosque or madrassa,” says a police investigator.

According to the Monitor report, the suicide-bomber cells operate in small groups of five to seven people, never staying at one place for more than two nights. Moving in small cells is now a necessity for members of the larger splinter groups, which have been thrown into disarray by a persistent government crackdown. The isolation of splinter groups, as well as their greater dependence on outside funding, may explain the adoption of the radical tactic of suicide bombing.

“They are on the run, and short of resources. But it is the most dangerous tactic and rather impossible to stop like elsewhere in the world,” says Karachi police chief Tariq Jameel.

“Killing of any non-Muslim citizen or foreigner visiting the country is also forbidden in Islam since they are under protection of the Government of Pakistan,” maintains Islamic scholar Mufti Munibur Rehman.

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