Innovations In Clinical Neuroscience

SEP-OCT 2014

A peer-reviewed, evidence-based journal for clinicians in the field of neuroscience

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[ V O L U M E 1 1 , N U M B E R 9 – 1 0 , S E P T E M B E R – O C T O B E R 2 0 1 4 ] Innovations in CLINICAL NEUROSCIENCE 83 dispatched some 2,000 kamikaze who rammed fully fueled fighter planes into more than 300 ships, killing 5,000 Americans in the most c ostly naval battle in United States history. 10 Iran too sent waves of young volunteers on suicide missions, in this case against the then United States-backed Iraqi army in the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, and Iran is now believed to have sponsored the first major modern suicide operation, namely the bombing of the Iraqi embassy in Beirut in 1981. This event is viewed as a landmark in suicide terrorism since explosives were deliberately carried to the target and delivered by surprise—it left 27 dead and over 100 wounded. Iran is also believed to have been behind the truck bombing of the Marine barracks bombing the following year—an attack that killed almost 300 American and French servicemen and drove President Reagan to withdraw forces from Lebanon. That attack served as a model for the devastating 9/11 suicide attacks, this time using airplanes driven into buildings. Recent trends. Suicide terrorism is not new, nor is it necessarily a religious phenomenon. The problem, however, has escalated in the last decade. As shown in Figure 2, the number of suicide attacks worldwide rose from an average of five per year in the 1980s to 10 per year in the 1990s. It continued to climb after 9/11, reaching a peak of 521 in 2007 at the height of the Iraq War. While the frequency of these attacks began to decline in 2008, suicide operations have been on the upswing again since 2012 reaching a height of 384 in 2013, a 46-percent increase over 2012. 1 These trends are worrisome since suicide terrorism is the most lethal form of terrorism, 13 times deadlier than any other form of attack. 5 Overall, suicide attacks have taken the lives of more than 37,000 since 1991 and wounded more almost 102,000. Moreover, as shown in Figure 3, the number killed increased by a factor of 18 and the number wounded grew by a factor of 17 in first decade of the 21st century (Figure 3). 1 EXPLANATIONS What accounts for suicide terrorism? Why has it increased so dramatically in the last decade? Social scientists have tried to explain the phenomenon at three general levels of analysis: the political/strategic, the social/cultural, and the personal. National liberation. Robert Pape, Director of the Chicago FIGURE 2. Number of suicide terrorism attacks 1980–2013; data extracted from Chicago Project on Security & Terrorism (CPOST) 1 FIGURE 3. Number killed and wounded in suicide terrorist attacks 1991–2013; Data extracted from Chicago Project on Security & Terrorism (CPOST) 1

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