Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, January 15th, 2021

Changing perceptions of modern terror techniques


Changing perceptions of modern terror techniques

In the 1960s national security was perceived as the ability of a nation to protect its internal values from external threats. In the 1990s the notion of national security has been greatly enlarged to mean the capacity to control those domestic and foreign conditions that the public opinion considers necessary for its autonomy, prosperity and well being. It has been interpreted by some to mean any condition which might degrade the quality of life of the inhabitants of a state.  In this confused perception of security the terrorists has a ready field to exploit. The relationship between the citizen and the state having snapped, terrorists target the citizens with greater violence and in the least expected places. In response to the terrorists’ use of violence the state uses its military apparatus. In the process it alienates the population. The increasing reliance on the military cannot and does not stop terrorist activity. It in fact increases the vulnerability of the citizens.
About the status
The threats we face from terrorism are constantly changing in all sorts of ways. It is not easy at a time when commercial airlines can be used as flying bombs, and when terrorist strategy is planned by internet, mobile phone, satellite and coded messages on websites. It has now become a global phenomenon with increasing and rather well identifiable links between different terrorist group and organisation. They use each other’s areas for recruitment and training, exchange of illegal weapons, engage in joint planning and ventures and also provide administrative and other logistic support. This type of terrorist activities show a new dimension due to circumstances characterised by the advancement of science, technology and diverse social, economic, political and historical reasons conditioning it. The development of computer science, satellite and mobile links have also affected the modernisation of terrorist activities. It is also feared that weapons of mass destruction previously controlled by governments can now be purchased on the black market. It is said that not only the weapons but also the scientists with the knowledge of how to make them are available.
Meanwhile, experts in terrorism believe that the next big threat will come from the practitioners of biological terrorism. Dr. Raymond A. Zilinskas, a microbiologist and former UN–SCOM inspector, recently discussed three categories of bioterrorism. Low technology bio-weapons are delivered in food or water, causing food poisoning. Such acts are extremely difficult to prevent, but rarely have much more than local impact. High technology bio weapons disperse agents over a larger area, but the use of foggers or sprayers is beset with technical problems. Explosive munitions as dispersal devices kill the agents in the explosion. There is also bioscience-based technology in which bacteria might be genetically engineered to be resistant to all known antibiotics, while viruses may be made more resistant to environmental factors. Dr. Zilinskas warns, ‘Nevertheless, we can expect that in the not too distant future, some well–trained molecular biologist will utilise her or his knowledge for military or terrorist purposes.’  A 1999 Federal Research Division (FRD) study examined some changes from terrorists of the past, especially the emergence of terrorist acts carried out by individuals and members of small, adhoc groups largely unknown to security organisations.  Tactics, as well as sources, had changed, with the greater use of suicide attacks and attacks by women and children. A very significant concern was the possible use, by terrorists, of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). Researchers for a 1999 General Accounting Office had also concluded that this is not a hypothetical fear but it also must be assessed in terms of possible damage, …except if using toxic industrial chemicals, terrorists would need a relatively high degree of sophistication to successfully and effectively process agents, improvise a device or weapon and disseminate the agents to cause mass casualties …Effectively disseminating both forms of agent (dry or liquid) can pose technical challenges in that the proper equipment and energy sources are needed.
Psychology of terrorism
However, in this context, above all is the fact that terrorists, while having at their disposal all the arms of the system, have also another fatal weapon: their own death. If they limited themselves to fighting the system with its own weapons, they would be immediately eliminated. If they did not oppose the system with their own death, they would disappear as quickly as a useless sacrifice: this has almost always been the fate of terrorism until now and the reason why it could not but fail. Everything changed as soon as they allied all available modern means to this highly symbolic weapon. The latter infinitely multiplies their destructive potential. Many terrorist organisations employ attacks in which the death of the attacker is not a risk, but is a certainty if the attack is carried out. Several operations have used trucks loaded with explosives and driven into the target. The driver either manually set off the explosives, causing his own death as well as deaths in the target. For example, the 9/11 attack involved the deaths of both the hijackers that took control of the aircraft, and those that flew it into the target. The suicide attacks have both a psychological and a practical effect. Going back to the World War II Japanese Kamikaze, who used suicide attacks against purely military targets, the recipients of the attacks were impressed, and to some extent demoralised, by the determination of the enemy. Current terrorists use the suicide attacker’s brain as an equivalent to high technology and obtain psychological benefits as a result. Terrorism is violence for a cause and terrorists always want the world to know about their existence, their causes and the power they wield.  When they strike but don’t seek publicity then they are working as a proxy.
Terror networks as today
The terrorists of today have a global network and little firm information is available about the type of data used by network analysts. The experts in general mostly rely on newspaper and other media reports, but it is certain that they maintain a high degree of connectivity and considerable redundancy. The dynamic units are probably small, with high personnel turn over and considerable structural equivalence. The network is not managed in the strict hierarchical sense, but a central leadership appears to plan major moves, to provide training, finance and logistical support but to permit considerable autonomy at the local level. Such structures contrasts markedly with typical governmental hierarchies.  In fact, to understand networks, one has to interview people; learn about their friends, relations and contacts; describe the relationships; reduplicate so that everyone is represented only once in the network, albeit in multiple roles; describe their movements; determine the processes of fission and fusion that create their particular dynamics; and connect the dots.  For the terrorists even nationality matters less than the commitment. The force is composed of a variety of ethnic and national groups, whose belief presumably binds them to the cause, and not necessarily to a given organisation or leader. The breakdown of such a network, whether on the local or global scale, depends obviously on two factors: money and trust.

Dr.Rajkumar Singh is Professor and Head, Department of Political Science Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, B.N.Mandal University, Madhepura Madhepura-852113. Bihar, India.

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