October 8, 2003
Last week's suicide bombing in Israel was notable for the use of the same "fighter-bomber" technique used earlier in the year by suicide bombers in Saudi Arabia. The women bomber in Israel was armed with a pistol, which she used to shoot the security guard at the entrance to the restaurant she targeted. With the guard down, she walked into the crowded restaurant and set off her bomb. In Saudi Arabia, the truck bomb was accompanied by a truck load of armed men who fought the security guards at the compounds to be bombed. Most of these "fighters" got way after the driver of the suicide bomb truck set off the explosives.
Successful suicide bomb attacks have long been noted for attention paid to organization, planning and heavy use of support staff. These support people perform jobs ranging from recruiters, to trainers and "minders" (who make sure that the suicide bomber stays in the proper frame of mind for the suicide action.) There are also bomb makers, guides, drivers and, increasingly, armed escorts to help get the bomber to the target.
Note also that such suicide attacker tactics are nothing new. There are records of such operations going back over a thousand years. In the last decade, the majority of suicide bombers have not even been Islamic radicals, but rather ethnic nationalists in Sri Lanka, India and elsewhere. There's never been a shortage of people willing to "die for the cause." While such service is not explicitly labeled a suicide operation, it's often pretty obvious that it is. During World War II, there were many types of troops who confronted the prospect of over 90 percent getting killed. This included German submarine crews, any Russian 18 year old who entered the army in 1941 (only three percent of them were still alive by 1945) and American and British bomber crews at certain periods during the war.
So ignore any talk of "eliminating suicide attacks." These tactics have been around for a long time. They grow and diminish over time, but they will be with us for a long time.