Goals and Motivations of Terrorists
Ideology and motivation will influence the objectives of terrorist operations, especially regarding the casualty rate. Groups with secular ideologies and non-religious goals will often attempt highly selective and discriminate acts of violence to achieve a specific political aim. This often requires them to keep casualties at the minimum amount necessary to attain the objective. This is both to avoid a backlash that might severely damage the organization, and also maintain the appearance of a rational group that has legitimate grievances. By limiting their attacks they reduce the risk of undermining external political and economic support. Groups that comprise a "wing" of an insurgency, or are affiliated with aboveground, sometimes legitimate, political organizations often operate under these constraints. The tensions caused by balancing these considerations are often a prime factor in the development of splinter groups and internal factions within these organizations.
The type of target selected will often reflect motivations and ideologies. For groups professing secular political or social motivations, their targets are highly symbolic of authority; government offices, banks, national airlines, and multinational corporations with direct relation to the established order. Likewise, they conduct attacks on representative individuals whom they associate with economic exploitation, social injustice, or political repression. While religious groups also use much of this symbolism, there is a trend to connect it to greater physical devastation. There also is a tendency to add religiously affiliated individuals, such as missionaries, and religious activities, such as worship services, to the targeting equation.
Another common form of symbolism utilized in terrorist targeting is striking on particular anniversaries or commemorative dates. Nationalist groups may strike to commemorate battles won or lost during a conventional struggle, whereas religious groups may strike to mark particularly appropriate observances. Many groups will attempt to commemorate anniversaries of successful operations, or the executions or deaths of notable individuals related to their particular conflict. Likewise, striking on days of particular significance to the enemy can also provide the required impact. Since there are more events than operations, assessment of the likelihood of an attack on a commemorative date is only useful when analyzed against the operational pattern of a particular group or specific members of a group's leadership cadre.
The Intent of Terrorist Groups
A terrorist group commits acts of violence to -
- Produce widesrpead fear
- Obtain worldwide, national, or local recognition for their cause by attracting the attention of the media
- Harass, weaken, or embarrass government security forces so that the the government overreacts and appears repressive
- Steal or extort money and equipment, especially weapons and ammunition vital to the operation of their group
- Destroy facilities or disrupt lines of communication in order to create doubt that the government can provide for and protect its citizens
- Discourage foreign investments, tourism, or assistance programs that can affect the target country’s economy and support of the government in power
- Influence government decisions, legislation, or other critical decisions
- Free prisoners
- Satisfy vengeance
- Turn the tide in a guerrilla war by forcing government security forces to concentrate their efforts in urban areas. This allows the terrorist group to establish itself among the local populace in rural areas