terrorism RESEARCH

Types of Terrorist Incidents

The most common types of terrorist incidents include:

Bombings are the most common type of terrorist act. Typically, improvised explosive devices are inexpensive and easy to make. Modern devices are smaller and are harder to detect and sometimes use common, non-military components. Both type of explosive devices can contain very destructive capabilities; for example, on February 23, 1993 the World Trade Centre (North Tower) was hit by a massive terrorst bomb that exploded in the basement of WTC's North Tower. Another example of bombings was on August 7, 1998, when two American embassies in Africa were bombed by Islamic terrorists. The bombings claimed the lives of over 200 innocent people, including 12 American citizens, and injured over 5,000 civilians. Terrorists can also use materials that are readily available to the average consumer to construct a bomb.

Kidnappings and Hostage taking
Terrorists use kidnapping and hostage taking to establish a bargaining position and to elicit publicity. Kidnapping is one of the most difficult acts for a terrorist group to accomplish, but, if a kidnapping is successful, it can gain terrorists money, release of jailed comrades, and publicity for an extended period. Hostage taking involves the seizure of a facility or location and the taking of hostages. Unlike a kidnapping, hostage taking provokes a confrontation with authorities. It forces authorities to either make dramatic decisions or to comply with the terrorist's demands. It is overt and designed to attract and hold media attention. The terrorist's intended target is the audience affected by the hostage's confinement, not the hostage.

Armed Attacks and Assassinations
Armed attacks include raids and ambushes. Assassinations are the killing of a selected victim,usually by bombings or small arms. Drive by shootings is a common technique employed by unsophisticated or loosely organized terrorist groups. Historically, terrorists have assassinated specific individuals for psychological effect.

Arson and Firebombings
Incendiary devices are cheap and easy to hide. Arson and firebombings are easily conducted by terrorist groups that may not be as well organized, equipped, or trained as a major terrorist organization. An arson or fire bombing against a utility, hotel, government building, or industrial centre portrays an image that the ruling government is incapable of maintaining order.

Hijackings and Skyjackings
Hijacking is the seizure by force of a surface vehicle, its passengers, and/or its cargo. Skyjacking is the taking of an aircraft, which creates a mobile, hostage barricade situation. It provides terrorists with hostages from many nations and draws heavy media attention. Skyjacking also provides mobility for the terrorists to relocate the aircraft to a country that supports their cause and provides them with a human shield, making retaliation difficult.

Nuclear / Radiological / Biological / Chemical terrorist attacks
Historically, terrorist attacks using nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) weapons have been rare. Due the extremely high number of casualties that NBC weapons produce, they are also referred to as weapons of mass destruction (WMD). However, a number of nations are involved in arms races with neighboring countries be- cause they view the development of WMD as a key deterrent of attack by hostile neighbors. The increased development of WMD also increases the potential for terrorist groups to gain access to WMD. It is believed that in the future terrorists will have greater access to WMD because unstable nations or states may fail to safeguard their stockpiles of WMD from accidental losses, illicit sales, or outright theft or seizure. Determined terrorist groups can also gain access to WMD through covert independent research efforts or by hiring technically skilled professionals to construct the WMD. Though not technically weapons of mass destruction, but terrorists could also use non-weapons grade radioative nuclear material (like that from medical use or waste from energy production) to create a "dirty bomb" which, though not destructive on a nuclear scale would render the impacted areas uninhabitable due to radiation.

Other Types of Terrorist Incidents
In addition to the acts of violence discussed above, there are also numerous other types of violence that can exist under the framework of terrorism. Terrorist groups conduct maiming against their own people as a form of punishment for security violations, defections, or informing. Terrorist organizations also conduct robberies and extortion when they need to finance their acts and they don't have sponsorship from sympathetic nations. Cyberterrorism is a new form of terrorism that is only going to increase in profile as we rely on computer networks to relay information and provide connectivity to today's modern and fast-paced world. Cyberterrorism allows terrorists to conduct their operations with little or no risk to themselves. It also provides terrorists an opportunity to disrupt or destroy networks and computers. The result is interruption of key government or business-related activities. This type of terrorism isn't as high profile as other types of terrorist attacks, but its impact cab be very destructive.