Are Suicide Terrorists Suicidal? A Critical Assessment of the Evidence

OP Editorial: I post this article for all LiveLeakers and specially for the education of a few profound loudmouth's like Slaurehog and a few other uneducated LiveLeakers who are ignorant to the facts and are constantly using their warped anti-american view points from unnamed sources as if they are legitimately educated on the subject.

Key Words: Suicide, terrorism, suicide terrorism, suicide attacks, suicide missions, martyrdom operations


Objective: Most of the research on suicide terrorism is conducted in the political science and international relations fields. The prevailing wisdom within this literature is that suicide terrorists are not suicidal. But how good is the evidence for this assumption? Knowing whether suicide terrorists are suicidal has implications for prevention, rehabilitation, and the “softer” side of counterterrorism designed to win minds and hearts. In addition it may deepen our understanding of suicide itself. Design: This article uses a review of existing literature to examine the arguments and evidence for and against the possibility that suicide terrorists could be suicidal in the context of a broad range of explanations for suicide terrorism. Results: Much of the evidence against the possibility that suicide terrorists are suicidal is based on anecdote or faulty assumptions about suicide. Relatively few formal systematic studies of suicidality in suicide terrorists have been conducted. Nonetheless, there is emerging evidence that suicidality may play a role in a significant number of cases. Conclusion: The field needs a more multidimensional approach, more systematic data at the individual level, and greater international cross-disciplinary collaboration. Would-be suicide terrorists (intercepted and arrested on their way to an attack) should be routinely interviewed using standard internationally accepted psychiatric diagnostic interviews as well as suicidality and homicidality rating scales. Psychological autopsies should also be routinely conducted worldwide. Since no one research site can collect all of the information that is needed, the creation of an internationally shared database that focuses on suicide terrorists rather than simply incidents is encouraged.


Suicide terrorism is the most lethal form of terrorism. Unfortunately, it is on the increase. In 2013 alone, some 384 suicide terrorist acts were carried out in 18 countries causing 3,743 deaths. This represented a 46-percent growth over the number of attacks in 2012 and a 66-percent increase in the number of lethal casualties.[1]

What drives suicide terrorism and to what extent is suicidality a contributing factor? Although suicide terrorist acts have become disturbingly frequent, with more than 3,500 since 2003,[1] we still know very little about the individuals who commit them.

As shown in Figure 1,
most of the scholarship on suicide terrorism (63%) comes from the political science and international relations fields (Figure 1). By contrast only a small proportion originates in disciplines that focus on the individual, such as psychology (16%) and psychiatry (5%). Within this literature, the conventional wisdom is that suicide terrorists are normal, well-adjusted individuals who turn to suicide terror for political or religious reasons or simply because of social and group processes. But how good is the evidence for these claims and to what extent are arguments for and against suicidality as a contributing factor to suicide terrorism supported theoretically?

This article reviews existing scholarship to try to answer these
questions. A basic assumption behind the article is that suicide
terrorism is a multifaceted problem that needs to be approached from
multiple perspectives at multiple levels: the society, the group and the
individual who volunteers for the mission in the first place.