A New Face of Terrorism and Coming Anarchy

15 Oct, 2001    ·   608

Animesh Roul outlines the challenges facing the world community, particularly the US, as terrorists begin to use unconventional means to intimidate and redefine established contours of terrorism

Terrorists want  “a lot of people watching, not a lot of people dead”; but this has changed after the September Eleven multiple hijacking and synchronized suicide attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. The world watched helplessly as thousands died. Besides its economic and psychological fallout, the physical debris would take one year to remove. These terrorist attacks have redefined the term ‘terrorism’ and ‘weapon of mass destruction’. 



During the Cold War period terrorist movements had some political motive and political goal to achieve. But the last decade has seen the emergence of ‘super-terrorism’ motivated by fundamentalism. Walter Lacquer finds this dangerous situation to embody the confluence of two separate trends: the emergence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) – nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) – and religious fanaticism. In this brutal game the players are religiously motivated, ready to die for their cause, and have no regard for human life. From Soko Asahara to bin Laden, these crusaders have one thing in common:  strike terror in the minds of millions in the name of God.



Who is the target of this religious fanaticism? Recent history informs us that India and America – the two largest democracies – bear the brunt of this fanaticism. From Kashmir to New York these terrorists have one common purpose to achieve: perpetrating fear and devastation through (un)holy wars. Their breeding grounds have been Pakistan and Afghanistan . The governments of these countries are directly and covertly sponsoring terrorist activities in the name of Jihad, freedom struggle or struggle for self-determination. Terrorist outfits are mushrooming in them. 



Another aspect of this problem, which affects the international community, is their methods of attack. In the past, hijacking, hostage-taking for ransom, and sabotage were in vogue. A revolution in terrorist activities (RTA) has now occurred due to the proliferation of NBC weapons and the advent of a new breed of terrorists called fidayeen. This has completely changed the threat emanating from various terrorist organizations. Fidayeens are highly motivated but deranged individuals, who have no qualms about their own death, which has enhanced their killing power by enabling them to strike their chosen targets with precision. They glamorize death by sacrificing themselves for the sake of God, not for money. These new breeds of ‘rebel with(out) a cause’ are influenced by the Kamikazes of Japan and the LTTE in Sri Lanka



However, the dangers of WMD terrorism especially using chemical and biological weapons, has become imminent with the improving capabilities of terrorists to develop these lethal weapons. Although there have been few known instances of use of WMDs by terrorists, a future shock is not unthinkable, although WMD terrorism has certainly been over-hyped. An apocalyptic scenario requires little imagination, but would need very large resources for counter-terrorism policies being pursued world wide, especially in America . This obsessive concern in America to counter germ and chemical attack, and its preparedness in this regard might compel terrorists to find some other effective ways to hit the headlines across the world. 



On September Eleven they used four civilian aircraft with full fuel tanks as guided missiles and turned them into new weapons of mass destruction. This case of multiple hijacking was not new for terrorism in the world. The first case was noted in 1970 when four planes were hijacked by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine from Jordan . Ironically, this incident also occurred in the month of September. On this occasion the terrorists have gone a step further and have shown the world how a WMD attack on America or any other country, for that matter, can be launched by unconventional means. They have achieved their objectives of causing damage, and creating chaos and fear in the American psyche.


In the end, it is pertinent to ponder over two questions: are we heading towards Armageddon? Will it be a sequel to the medieval crusades or will it be a clash (war) of civilizations which leads up to World War III?  America has already declared a war against terrorism. Bin Laden, the prime accused and enemy number one of America , had proclaimed war against America in a fatwa delivered in February 1998. Since then Osama and his Al Qaeda network have attacked American installations and interests worldwide. Unlike in other wars the enemy is scattered over several states. America can kill bin Laden and destroy his Al Qaeda network, but it could rise again with a different name and form.  Therefore, this will be a war without a beginning or an end, requiring a prolonged struggle against terrorism, with the whole world being its theatre.