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The ‘suicide’ bomber: is it a psychiatric phenomenon?

  • Harvey Gordon (a1)
Extract

Although there is an association between suicide and suicidal behaviour and homicide and violence to others (van Praag, 2000), few, if any, major texts on suicide comment on the phenomenon of the ‘suicide’ bomber. However, the events in the USA of what Americans have now come to call ‘9/11’, have left an enduring traumatic memory throughout the world. On the morning of 11 September 2001 four aeroplanes were hijacked and transformed from a means of mass transportation to a means of terror and destruction, killing a total of 233 passengers, 33 crew members and some 3000 people on the ground in the USA (Alexander & Swetnam, 2001). It is not clear whether all of the hijackers knew that they were on a ‘suicide’ mission because in only six cases were ‘suicide’ notes found (Jenkins, 2001). Indeed, the term ‘suicide bombers' may be misleading because the main objective seems to have been not suicide but mass homicide, albeit carried out by means of self-destruction designed to inflict lethal harm on others. Those who planned and perpetrated the acts of 11 September 2001 would not conceptualise the acts as suicide but instead would perceive them as martyrdom, rationally underpinned by a legitimate struggle in a conflict of national and religious dimensions (Juergensmeyer, 2001).

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Copyright
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
References
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BJPsych Bulletin
  • ISSN: 0955-6036
  • EISSN: 1472-1473
  • URL: /core/journals/bjpsych-bulletin
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The ‘suicide’ bomber: is it a psychiatric phenomenon?

  • Harvey Gordon (a1)
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