Homeland Security Terrorist Attacks and Bombings

In recent years, the number and extent of global suicide attacks have increased sharply and come to represent a unique sociopolitical phenomenon. Popularized by the militant Islamic organizations to terrorize countries that do not pledge allegiance to extremist Islamic beliefs, many other terror groups have adopted the utilization of suicide bombers. According to Acosta-Hughes and Childs (2013), he attacks occurring in the context of guerrilla warfare, terrorism, civil war, political and legal protests, and extreme religious beliefs, suicide attacks have gradually become a mainstay in the contemporary society. In the United States, suicide attacks by terrorist organizations have become increasingly prevalent and assessing the threat of suicide attacks has gained strategic importance. Conceptualized alongside this continuum and applying sound analytical and rational problem-solving skills, we identify two international suicide-bombing incidents. We compare and contrast the two incidents based on historical background, terrorist group affiliation, motivations, and potential threats to the United States and develop ways to counter the threat. 

The Bombing of U.S. Embassy Beirut in 1983

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On 18 April 1983, the suicide bombing of the United States embassy in Beirut, Lebanon was the deadliest attack on U.S. diplomatic missions up until that date. The attack left 63 people dead, 17 of whom were American citizens (Weiner, 2018). The attack is thought as the beginning of the anti-U.S. attacks from Islamist groups. The famous Islamic Jihad Organization claimed responsibility, while the investigations and the court found Hezbollah responsible for the attack (McElreath, Jensen, & Wigginton, 2013). Later on 23 October 1983, a suicide bomber drove a truck below the four-storey building that housed the U.S. Marine barracks and detonated 12,000 pounds of TNT (CNN Library, 2017). The explosion killed 241 U.S. service personnel. At the same time, a suicide bomber hit a building housing French Paratroopers with a truck full of explosives, leaving 58 French soldiers died in the attack.

The Manchester Arena Terror Attack

On 23 May 2017, a suicide bomber bombed the Manchester Arena in a deadly blast that left 22 people dead and more than 800 injured. According to Mackintosh (2017), the suicide bomber was 22-year-old Salim Abedi who detonated a homemade explosive device made from shrapnel, nuts, and bolts at the concert killing himself in the process. After news of the suicide attack broke, Isis the Islamic State militant group took responsibility hailing the bomber as a “soldier of the caliphate.” The terror group also released statements in different languages praising the atrocity and claiming that more than 100 “crusaders” died or got wounded in the “shameless” concert (Dearden, 2017). 

The U.S. Embassy in Beirut Bombing vs. the Manchester Arena Terror Attack

Historical Background

It is hard to understand the concept of suicide attacks without viewing it from a broader historical context. In the human history, self-sacrifice for a broader cause is not new. However, terrorist suicide attacks are defined by lengthy pedigrees. For instance, in early days, Muslim communities used suicide attacks to inflict punishment and instill fear among the European colonial powers. In other cases, perpetrators of suicide bombing often did so in the name of religion with the promise of better life in paradise after killing in the name Allah. The 1983 Beirut suicide attack was aimed at destroying the Marine barracks in Beirut, a watershed particularly used by the Americans. According to a report by Cronin and Library of Congress (2003), the subsequent bombings in 1983 resulted in the withdrawal of U.S. and French forces from the area. The attacks and the troop withdraw signified the effectiveness of suicide attacks against western democratic powers. The apparent success of the Beirut suicide bombing formed the basis for subsequent attacks and perhaps the indirect initiation of modern ruthless and bloody suicide campaigns. The technique was not historically unprecedented, but it also marked the beginning of a growing use of suicide attacks. On the other hand, the Manchester Arena suicide bombing signified a trend that has been ongoing, targeting large gatherings of people. Compared with the 1983 Beirut bombing, the Manchester suicide attack is different in that there are several other suicide events though not similar. One similarity between the two attacks is that they were designed to deliver a message to the authorities. Although not clear the motive behind the Manchester Arena attack speculations are that it was a revenge mission, while others believe that the attack was sending a message to the United States about bombing children in Syria. A report on the Independent cited the incident as inspired by past events but with a horrific new target, which is children and teenagers (Dearden, 2017)

Terrorist Group Affiliation

When an act of terrorism happens, a terror group takes responsibility through the media and currently through social media and other channels of communications. In the 1983 terror attack, Islamic Jihad terror group took responsibility. However, a court finding later announced that the Hezbollah was responsible for the attack. In the Manchester Arena attack, the ISIS took responsibility by sending statements in several languages hailing the motive. According to Hanna (2016), ISIS was formed in 2014 and has several affiliates. Hezbollah was formed in 1982 and has evolved from a revolutionary vanguard terrorist organization into a hybrid organization the uses legitimate political tools (Azani, 2013)

Motivations

The perception of suicide attacks is that deranged individuals execute the acts. However, research indicates that majority of the suicide attackers are psychologically normal in the sense that psychological pathology is absent and the attacks always premeditated. Although there have been rumors of coercion and deceit when recruiting suicide attackers, a majority of the perpetrators are aware of their fate and that of their victims. Additionally, looking at the motivation of the terror organizations, Cronin and Library of Congress (2003) note that, these groups plan and execute suicide attacks as a form of coercion, retaliation, to potentially serve other interests of the terrorist campaign such as revenge. In the case of the 1983 Beirut terror attack, there have been several speculations about the motivation of the suicide attackers.  According to Goodwin and Jasper (2015), some people believed that the attackers were psychologically abnormal. However, further investigations revealed that the attackers were psychologically stable. A close analysis of the first attack and the subsequent attacks reveals that the organization wanted to oust the U.S. and the French marine forces. On the other hand, ISIS took responsibility for propagating the Manchester Arena suicide attack. Although the personal motive of the suicide attacker is not clear, drawing upon the statement issue by ISI after the attack, the group was sending a message to the United States. The statements that read in part as an attack aimed to terrorize infidels in response to their transgression against the lands of the Muslims. 

Potential Threats to the United States

In the past, most of the terror groups engaging in suicide attacks were interested in pursuing a cause that was geographically distant from the U.S. However, the 1983 attack that targeted U.S. marines was propagated to target the United States though not geographically. Similarly, although the Manchester Arena terrorist attack was not committed on U.S. soil, it targeted the United State although indirectly. Arianna Grande, an American artist hosted the concert, and thousands of her fans attended the concert, which explains the link between the attack and the United States. 

How to Counter the Threat

Virtually, it is difficult to prevent or counter suicide attacks. However, various strategies and measures can be applied to reduce the number and the severity of attacks. Some of the strategies suggested by Cronin and Library of Congress (2003) include gathering intelligence to know when organizations may propagate an attack. Intelligence collection can also be used to reduce the ability of the terror groups from recruiting suicide attackers. Other methods to counter the threat involve engaging the military in operations to destroy the physical infrastructure of the terrorist organizations. The other approach is finding ways to cut funding of the terror groups. 

Suicide attacks are a unique phenomenon in the contemporary society. Since the 1983 suicide attack on the American embassy in Beirut, the suicide attacks seem to be more targeted towards U.S. soil and their affiliates around the globe including diplomatic missions. Based on the historical background, terror group affiliations, motivation, and potential threat to the United States, the incidents have multiple differences but also have some similarities. Importantly noted, the United States should develop strategies to counter the threat of suicide attacks and prevent the impact it has on the country. 

References

Acosta-Hughes, B., & Childs, S. J. (2013). Illuminating the Global Suicide-Attack Network. Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, 36, 1, 49-76.

Azani, E. (2013). The Hybrid Terrorist Organization: Hezbollah as a Case Study. Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, 36(11), 899-916.

CNN Library. (2017). Beirut Marine Barracks Bombing Fast Facts. CNN. Retrieved from: https://edition.cnn.com/2013/06/13/world/meast/beirut-marine-barracks-bombing-fast-facts/index.html

Cronin, A. K., & Library of Congress. (2003). Terrorists and suicide attacks, August 28, 2003. Washington, D.C: Congressional Research Service, The Library of Congress.

Deaden, L. (2017). Manchester Arena attack: Isis claims responsibility for suicide bombing that killed at least 22 people. Independent. Retrieved from: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/manchester-arena-attack-isis-responsible-claim-suicide-bombing-islamic-state-ariana-grande-concert-a7751221.html

Goodwin, J., &  Jasper, J. M. (2015). The social movements reader: Cases and concepts. Chichester, West Sussex, UK; Malden, MA: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Hanna, J. (2016). Here’s how ISIS was really founded. CNN. Retrieved from: https://edition.cnn.com/2016/08/12/middleeast/here-is-how-isis-began/index.html

Mackintosh, E. (2017). Machester attack: what we know and don’t know. CNN. Retrieved from: https://edition.cnn.com/2017/05/23/europe/manchester-arena-what-we-know/index.html

McElreath, D. H., Jensen, C. J., Wigginton, J., Doss, D. A., Nations, R., & Van, S. J. (2013). Introduction to Homeland Security, Second Edition. Hoboken: CRC Press.Weiner, E. (2018). Remembering the 1983 Suicide Bombings in Beirut: The Tragic Events That Created the Diplomatic Security Service. U.S. Department of State Official Blog. Retrieved from: https://blogs.state.gov/stories/2018/04/18/en/remembering-1983-suicide-bombings-beirut-tragic-events-created-diplomatic

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