Bombshell: Women and Terrorism

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Between 1985 and 2008, female suicide bombers committed more than 230 attacks-about a quarter of all such acts. Women have become the ideal stealth weapon for terrorist groups. They are less likely to be suspected or searched and as a result have been used to strike at the heart of coalition troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. This alarming tactic has been highly effectiv, garnering extra media attention and helping to recruit more numbers to the terrorists' cause. Yet, as Mia Bloom explains in Bombshell: Women and Terrorism, female involvement in terrorism is not confined to suicide bombing and not limited to the Middle East. From Northern Ireland to Sri Lanka, women have been engaged in all manner of terrorist activities, from generating propaganda to blowing up targets. What drives women to participate in terrorist activities? Bloom-a scholar of both international studies and women's studies-blends scrupulous research with psychological insight to unearth affecting stories from women who were formerly terrorists. She moves beyond gender stereotypes to examine the conditions that really influence female violence, arguing that while women terrorists can be just as bloodthirsty as their male counterparts, their motivations tend to be more intricate and multilayered. Through compelling case studies she demonstrates that though some of these women volunteer as martyrs, many more have been coerced by physical threats or other means of social control. As evidenced by the March 2011 release of Al Qaeda's magazine Al Shamikha, dubbed the jihadi Cosmo, it is clear that women are the future of even the most conservative terrorist organizations. Bombshell is a groundbreaking book that reveals the inner workings of a shocking, unfamiliar world.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0810-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. 1-8)

    In the early-morning hours of Monday, March 29, 2010, two men and two women left an apartment in central Moscow. They had used the apartment as a base where they had assembled two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the form of belts, which the women had then wrapped around their stomachs. Each IED contained between two and three hundred grams of explosive and one was packed with nails to maximize the carnage.

    A second apartment in the city housed more explosives—up to one kilo of TNT—for future attacks. The apartment had been rented by Akhmed Rabadanov, who had...

    (pp. 9-34)

    There is a long history of using violence to inspire terror. Historically, all the major religions—Muslim (Shi’a and Sunni), Christian, Hindu, Sikh, and Jewish—have employed terrorist violence, in many regions of the world. As far back as the Old Testament, Samson brought down the temple of the Philistines, killing those inside and himself in the process. Members of various early Christian, Muslim, and Jewish heretical sects were willing to sacrifice their lives for their beliefs, and occasionally sacrificed the lives of others as well. These groups used violence to frighten their enemies and to instill terror among the...

    (pp. 35-67)

    Chechnya had always been a desolate backwater in the northern Caucasus, the mountain range that forms the geographical divide between Europe and Asia. The mountains average 10,000 feet above sea level and stretch 650 miles from the Caspian to the Black Sea. This rugged terrain is made all the more formidable by the steepness of the mountains’ craggy slopes. A number of peoples and tribes have populated the region, including the Avars, Tatars, Kabardians, Laks, Khazars, Ossetians, Alans, and the Vainakh. Their relative isolation has insulated them from outside authority and influence.

    The Chechen people, historically called the Vainakh, have...

    (pp. 68-97)

    Siobhan³ sat by herself staring out the window of a bus full of tourists and holidaymakers en route to Belfast International Airport. Her rosy cheeks were flushed with both nervousness and excitement. She was wearing denim overalls, the kind that pregnant women often wear, and concealed underneath them fifteen pounds of Semtex explosives strapped to her waist. Her mission: to plant the explosives at the airport and wait for the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) to make its warning call to clear the premises. In her mind, she could accomplish this task without any civilians getting killed. However, the economic...

  8. 4 THE SCOUT
    (pp. 98-139)

    Ahlam at-Tamimi smiled angelically as she recalled the events of the afternoon of August 9, 2001, when twenty-two-year-old Izzedine as-Suheil Al Masri went to the Sbarro pizzeria at the intersection of Jerusalem’s King George and Jaffa streets. In Al Masri’s guitar case was a fifteen-pound improvised explosive device, which master bomb maker Abdullah Barghouti had packed with nails, screws, nuts, and bolts to maximize the carnage. This trip to the Sbarro pizzeria was not a maiden trip for Ahlam. The twenty-year-old from the village of Nebi Saleh had reconnoitered the street days earlier, studying the neighborhood to ascertain when and...

    (pp. 140-172)

    There was an election campaign under way in the state of Tamil Nadu, India. On May 21, 1991, Thenmuli Rajaratnam stood with many others waiting for the arrival of Rajiv Gandhi in the industrial town of Sriperumbudur, near Chennai, where the former Indian prime minister was due to speak. Thenmuli wore horn-rimmed glasses that obscured her face and in her hands she held tightly to a garland. A pronounced bulge beneath her orange salwar kameez (the traditional Hindu tunic worn over baggy pants) suggested that she was pregnant. The appearance was deceptive: in fact, Thenmuli, whose code name was Dhanu,...

    (pp. 173-196)

    Paridah binti Abas is a classic example of a female member of the terror group Jemaah Islamiya (JI). Born in Singapore on September 30, 1970, into a middle-class family, Paridah was one of six children of Abas bin Yusuf. She attended a secular high school and grew up planning to become a kindergarten teacher. Her father, Abas, had participated in the study groups established by two radical clerics, Abu Bakar Ba’asyir and Abdullah Sungkar, in Malaysia. He was so inspired by Sungkar’s teaching that he promised Paridah in marriage to one of Sungkar’s most ardent students, Ali Ghufron bin Nurhasyim,...

    (pp. 197-232)

    In May 2010, a Brussels court sentenced fifty-year-old Malika el Aroud to eight years in prison and a 5,000 euro fine for establishing, leading, and financing a terrorist group. According to the judges, Malika used her website to attract the most vulnerable Web surfers and to indoctrinate and then recruit them to the global jihad. Her website got 1,500 users a day and showed reckless disregard for the deaths of young European Muslim men who went to Afghanistan on jihad. After years of house arrests and scrutiny by the police, Malika was finally caught by Belgian officials, on a technicality....

  12. The Fours Rs plus One
    (pp. 233-250)

    Only a handful of countries have taken into consideration the danger posed by female terrorists. Even agencies that should know better are surprised and unprepared for the threat women pose. The common assumption that women are inherently nonviolent remains fixed in people’s minds. Even when women are implicated in violence, there is a tendency to assume that they are merely the pawns of men, despite the fact that there have been plenty of cases of women’s involvement in terrorist groups going as far back as the 1960s, and in spite of the emergence of female suicide bombers since 1985. Even...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 251-287)
    (pp. 288-292)
    (pp. 293-296)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 297-308)