Terrorism analysis

(To Giovanni Di Gregorio)

Terrorism, especially in the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington DC, is a term that has become - in spite of itself - very fashionable. The main search engine on the Internet - Google - reports over 58,4 million websites on the subject.

Too bad that none of these contemplate an exhaustive definition, where "exhaustive" means "commonly accepted" or "shared".

The author of the book "THE FIST OF GOD, Terrorism and Terrorism, from the origins to the sword of Islam", wanted to collect all the information necessary to understand and understand the phenomenon of national and transnational terrorism, giving inspiration to what is the struggle to this form of horror.

It is correct to analyze the various phenomena of terrorism, from the predominantly political one to that of an Islamic and religious matrix. Government documentation and intelligence sources have been screened for the realization of this book, which hopefully will provide readers with the inspiration to be able to perceive the real problem and the modus operandi.

The definition of terrorism

The will to try to define the practice of terrorism is consequent to its historical development and its roots and implementation. The considerable complexity of the subject, in which there are many variables - strategic, tactical, ideological, etc. have ensured that a vast literature on the subject was produced and, consequently, that a long list of different definitions was created.

A first attempt at synthesis and analysis on the various definitions that had followed one another during the course of history was made in 1988 by the US Army. In his study, the US military counted as many as 109 different definitions, which included 22 different characteristic and determinative elements. Still in 1999, Walter Laqueur, after analyzing 100 different definitions came to the conclusion that "the only general characteristic commonly shared about the term is that terrorism includes (contemplates) violence and the threat of resorting to violence". This is a very generic definition, but all-encompassing, however by no means exhaustive, since it leaves out other variables of fundamental importance to trace any type of more in-depth analysis.

The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence against individuals or property in an attempt to coerce or intimidate governments or societies to achieve political, religious or ideological objective. (AAP-6) (1/9/89)

First of all, the definition is dated. It dates back to the end of the Eighties, therefore elaborated in a context of bipolar confrontation, in which terrorism is a phenomenon that occurs mainly in Europe and in its left-wing political component is often sponsored by the Soviet Union and its satellite countries. (as happens in some ways in Latin America, another theater of action of the Marxist-Leninist groups) has a left-wing political matrix (local European terrorism) or Europe becomes the battleground for action for Palestinian independence claims.

Contrary to what has happened in other states or in other supranational institutions, the definition was not updated after 11 September, considering it valid and still current. According to this reasoning, the characteristic that allows us to define terrorism is constituted by the act itself and not by the reasons and justifications that motivate it. The limitation of this definition lies in the fact that it is not possible to make a clear and clear differentiation between violence perpetrated by states and that of non-state groups, such as terrorist groups. And this is the strength of such groups, since they can argue that there is no difference between a homemade bomb placed in a bin in a market in any city that will indiscriminately kill or mutilate people who come within range. action of the bomb, by a highly technological weapon system dropped from a high-altitude bomber. This reasoning puts on the same level the actions perpetrated by sovereign states during the Second World War (bombing of Dresden or Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the Americans or of Coventry and Warsaw by the Luftwaffe and, as a precursor to the bombing of Guernica, during the Spanish Civil War in 1937 by the Condor Legion) with the actions of substate entities, assuming that both cause the death of innocent civilians.

Framework Decision on Combating Terrorism

To give a definition, the European Union has also tried.

The European Union employs a definition of terrorism for legal / official purposes which is set out in Art. 1 of the Framework Decision on Combating Terrorism (2002). This provides that terrorist offences are certain criminal offences set out in a list comprised largely of serious offences against persons and property which, "given their nature or context, may seriously damage a country or an international organization where committed with the aim of: seriously intimidating a population; or unduly compelling a Government or international organization to perform or abstain from performing any act; or seriously destabilizing or destroying the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country or an international organization.

Article 29 of the Treaty on European Union refers specifically to terrorism as a serious form of crime.

Union action in the fight against terrorism is part of the third pillar, namely police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters (Title VI of the Treaty on European Union). In this perspective, terrorist offenses are defined as "intentional acts, especially the kidnapping or taking of hostages, the dissemination of dangerous substances or the provocation of fires, floods or explosions whose effects endanger human lives, homicides ( …). Acts that can cause serious damage to a country or an international organization if they are committed in order to seriously intimidate a population or coerce the public authorities, to seriously destabilize or destroy fundamental political structures are also considered terrorist offenses "(Framework Decision of June 13, 2002).

Each of these definitions clearly translates the priorities and specific interests of the various administrations. The State Department emphasizes the character of the premeditation, planning and calculation of terrorist action, emphasizing - and here is the US originality - the fundamentally political character of terrorism, as well as its essentially "subnational" nature.

A further definition is given by the Congress of Islamic Countries, of which it is useful to know and know the almost moderate convictions on terrorism

Article I

2. "Terrorism" means any act of violence or threat thereof notwithstanding its motives or intentions perpetrated to carry out an individual or collective criminal plan with the aim of terrorizing people or threatening

to harm them or imperiling their lives, honor, freedoms, security or rights or exposing the environment or any facility or public or private property to hazards or occupying or seizing them, or endangering a national

resource, or international facilities, or threatening the stability, territorial integrity, political unity or sovereignty of independent States.

Article 2

a) Peoples struggle including armed struggle against foreign occupation, aggression, colonialism, and hegemony, aimed at liberation and selfdetermination in accordance with the principles of international law shall

not be considered a terrorist crime.

b) None of the terrorist crimes mentioned in the previous article shall be considered political crimes.

While not specifically mentioning or referring to the situation in Palestine, it is obvious that Article 2 refers to what is considered a national liberation struggle from the Israeli yoke. Just as the Lebanese resistance struggle must be considered.

However, with the Kuala Lumpur Declaration in 2002, the Organization of the Islamic Conference returns to the subject and openly declares to "reject any attempt to link the struggle of the Palestinian people or the Lebanese resistance to acts of terrorism".

Kuala Lumpur declaration on international terrorism

Adopted at the extraordinary session of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers on Terrorism 1-3- APRIL 2002

5. We reject any attempt to link Islam and Muslims to terrorism as terrorism has no association with any religion, civilization or nationality;

6. We reiterate that preventive action taken to combat terrorism should not result in ethnic or religious profiling or the targeting of a particular community;

7. We unequivocally condemn acts of international terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including state terrorism, irrespective of motives, perpetrators and victims as terrorism poses a serious threat to international peace and security and is a grave violation of human rights;

10. We reject any attempt to link terrorism to the struggle of the Palestinian people in the exercise of their inalienable right to establish their independent state with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital;

11. We reject any attempt to associate Islamic states or Palestinian and Lebanese resistance with terrorism, which constitutes an impediment to the global struggle against terrorism;

What can we draw from the above definitions?

Terrorism is defined by the nature of the act and not by the identity of the perpetrator. It is therefore an act of violence or threat of violence, calculated to create a climate of fear and panic, in order to achieve political objectives and ends. Getting a consensus on the meaning of the term "terrorism" is not an important goal in itself, except for linguists.

Although there is a convergence in identifying terrorism with violence, it is nevertheless necessary to differentiate between the different conditions of "violence" and to distinguish the various ways and methods of conflict, whatever the world to call them, if we want to improve the our understanding of this problem, if we want to understand the factors that move terrorism, if we want to develop a counter-terrorism strategy, or rather a terrorist counter-violence strategy that is efficient and effective.

Terrorism as a liberation movement

The Second World War, which opens the way to a phase of decolonization and new independence, sees the proliferation of many groups fighting for freedom. These are mostly groups that operate in a strictly national context, against a well-defined, institutional enemy: the still dominant foreign colonial power (for example the case of Southeast Asia, where some colonial forces do not resign themselves to the loss of their empires, see the case of France of the IV Republic in the war of Indochina - 1954) or the new elite in power, risen from the ashes of European colonialism and representing only a part of the local population (where you are in tribal contexts, such as in Africa) or is an expression of a right-wing political trend. Where, on the other hand, communist factions or parties come to power, the guerrilla and therefore the actions of terror and reprisals are the main tools to "preserve" the Revolution and to "suppress" the counter-revolutionary forces, or any threat to the new status quo.

For example, a directive of the Viet Nam Cong San (the Vietnamese Communists, the Viet-Cong), in 1965 is extremely explicit in identifying the categories that must be repressed: "the objectives of the repression are the counter-revolutionary elements that try to hinder the revolution and actively working for the enemy and for the destruction of the revolution / ... / the elements actively fighting against the revolution in counter-revolutionary parties, such as the Vietnamese Nationalist Party (Quoc Dan Dang), the Great Vietnam Party (Dai Viet), /… / The reactionary and recalcitrant elements who take advantage of the different religions, such as Buddhism, Catholicism, Cao Dai and Protestantism ”.

From an ideological-lexical point of view, terrorism as a liberation movement will have a fundamental significance for future terrorisms, and in particular for the development of groups that will arise in the Middle East.

We are dealing with freedom fighters, no longer with terrorists.

The ideology is summed up by Yasser Arafat at the United Nations, when he gave his first speech in 1974: “The difference between the revolutionary and the terrorist lies in the reasons for which each one fights. Because it is impossible to call a terrorist who supports a just cause, who fights for freedom, for the liberation of his land from invaders, settlers and colonialists ”.

Although in Latin America there is no liberation from the colonial legacy (already accomplished), governments in power, with strong right-wing connotations, generate - in spite of themselves - a galaxy of left-wing armed groups.

In fact, the rise of these armed groups, between the late 1964s and early 1965s (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - Ejército del Pueblo FARC-EP - 1966; and the Ejército de Liberación Nacional - ELN in Colombia - 1969 ; Ejército de Liberación Nacional in Bolivia - XNUMX; Sendero Luminoso in Peru - XNUMX etc.) is not attributable solely to the rise to power of military Juntas, following coups d'état or democratic elections, specific manello, for the Latin America also contributes some endogenous factors:

· Ideology: Marxism-Leninism; Maoism

· Failure of Che Guevara in Bolivia

· Theorizing of the guerrilla: Marghella (Brazil),

Tupamaros (Uruguay)

· Cuba and Castrism

· US interference perceived as excessive: neo-imperialism

Also in this specific geographic area, as in Southeast Asia, the groups operate on a national level. However, the strategy of military action pursued by the Latin American groups will set the standard and will have a fundamental impact and influence on European groups. Their organizational structure, the fighting strategy (Marghella's guerrilla manual), the myths (Che Guevara, as well as Castro, but also Viet-Nam and Ho-chi-min) will be paradigms that will be followed slavishly, adopted and assimilated almost in full from Western groups born around the sixties, but also those that will arise, like a second wave in the seventies and eighties.

Taking its cue from the political anti-imperialist terrorist organizations of the Latin American countries, in Europe the first student uprisings to which the Latin fighting groups refer. An absolutely important aspect is their secularism of ideals and non-involvement of religion.

Despite this which differentiates them, as we shall see, from deeply religious Islamic terrorists, they will not hesitate to forge global ties.

The groups that start their activity in Europe have as Leitmotive:

· Political ideology: Marxism Leninism, Maoism

· Instruments of struggle: armed struggle, clandestine struggle, political assassination, kidnapping

· The objectives: the overthrow of the state (“the state does not change, it breaks down) and the proletarian revolution

· For some, independence (IRA, ETA, FLNC)

In Europe, the role of leader, by organization and structure, by shares, as well as by experience gained in the field (it was founded in 1959) is held by ETA. The relations that it establishes with the first terrorist groups of Islamic origin, with a strong independence connotation (PLO) are fundamental.

Thanks to the help of the PLO, ETA militants can get in touch with the guerrilla techniques and tactics of the training camps that the men of Yasser Arafat and Abu Nidal have opened in Jordan.

The training camp model will be imported by ETA in Europe. These will become centers for other left-wing political terrorist groups, such as the Italian Red Brigades and members of the RAF and AD.

Terrorism and religions

God does not forgive those who kill in his name: it is a simple phrase that could be interpreted almost as a tautology of the principles underlying any religious faith, as a natural implication when it is believed that there is a Being superior to earthly things, not shaken by simple human feelings. However you want to interpret it, the fact that no God could suggest an instrument such as that of death to impose faith, or to punish lack, is a less obvious concept than it seems if it was necessary for a Pontiff, Benedict XVI, to remember using the phrase quoted above. But the Pope's warning did not come by chance: this moment we are going through again risks transforming fears, uncertainties about the future, hostility towards those who are different from themselves, into fanaticism and terror.

Religious terrorism constitutes a complex and varied macrocosm that only the news of recent years have accustomed us to storing on the desktop of our mind with an icon that recalls Islamic atmospheres. And yet we cannot forget that violence has done and is part of the dark side of every faith. The violence that terrorism can suggest, in the ideas of those who access these distorted views of existence, is the most dangerous since it transforms murder (and / or suicide) into a 'just' and persuasive action, capable of open to the kingdom of heaven with full merit. It is like saying that earthly existence could also be completely canceled, its value is so ephemeral. And it is probable that these men lost in the fumes of mystical delirium do not need God's forgiveness: in their minds it is more than enough to believe that they have had full approval.

Middle Eastern terrorism, religious terrorism, as we understand it today - in its essentially Islamic meaning and the internationalization of the phenomenon of terrorism, there are three elements that must be seen in a single dimension. They are three elements that intersect, develop, evolve in a unique, complementary, almost symbiotic way.

But to understand the problem well, we must analyze the historical chronology of his acts which led to the knowledge of this phenomenon and its radicalization at the international level.

The purposes of the terrorist act Regardless of the type of terrorism, be it of a political or religious nature of Islamic origin, the aim is to create chaos and "terror".

In fact, let's analyze the points that outline its characteristics:

· Get ​​visibility and advertising globally;

· Produce an imitative effect;

· Impress potential sympathizers and recruit new followers;

· Provoke a disproportionate repressive reaction to exploit its political advantage;

· Forcing authorities to make concessions;

· Provoke conflicts;

· Damaging or destroying citizens' trust in institutions.

· Overthrow governments, modify or revise the policies of governments, the economic and business lines of multinationals.

To perpetrate their criminal purposes they carefully choose their targets:

· Civilians, civil infrastructures, means of transport

· Political, economic and religious institutions

· Governments and their political actions

· Political, governmental, public figures

· Symbol buildings

· Managers and businessmen: kidnapping, blackmail for self-financing

· Economic infrastructures (companies, representations abroad, factories): damage local governments, political review of multinationals

· Strategic targets: nuclear, electricity, oil and gas pipelines: causing damage to the resident civilian population.

So George Habbas, founder of the FPLP, declared in the 1970:

“When we hijack a plane, the result obtained is more important than that obtained by killing a hundred Israelis in combat. For decades, world public opinion has been neither for nor against the Palestinian question. He simply ignored us. But now the world is talking about us. "

These changes in the tactics of terrorist operations are also made possible by the technological developments that have taken place in those years: The great speed and ease of international air travel, the improvement of television shooting techniques and the speed with which television sequences can being broadcast and going around the world, live TV are all innovations that - in spite of themselves - will play the terrorists' game.

The PLO groups will be the forerunners of the application of these new tactics of combat, terrorism and between 1968 and 1970 they will prove to be the most active in the international terrorist landscape. The strategic objective, fully achieved by the PLO, will be to bring the Palestinian problem to world public attention through the internationalization of its struggle against the State of Israel.

The success achieved by the PLO will become a paradigm and will serve as a model for all ethno-nationalist or independence groups or more generally fighters (even on the left).

Despite the internationalization achieved in this period, Middle Eastern terrorism does not yet have those connotations of religious terrorism which it will permeate in the following years, but has exclusively the characteristic of actions aimed at "national liberation".

The liberation of the Palestinian territories from what is perceived as an invading country is the first objective and the tool used is real military actions - through the use of practices of hijacking (air and sea), attacks, kidnappings and selective killings. All conducted within a purely secular sphere, a struggle in which the strength of religion does not enter the scene. Religion remains an element still relegated to the personal sphere of the combatants, but which does not fit in as an auxiliary element of struggle.

Among the many actions that, starting from the seventies, hit Western interests through the objectives identified above, one, in terms of importance, media impact and the political and strategic consequences it will entail, is worthy of mention.

Religious terrorist groups have not only increased in number but have also consolidated their structure, recruiting followers in all the major religions of the world - not just Islam - and also in many smaller religious groups.

The period between 1992 and 1995 shows an increase in the number of religious terrorist groups to 26, out of a total of 56 identified active terrorist groups (46.4%). A decrease is visible in 1996, when only 13 of 46 identifiable groups showed a predominant religious component (28.2%). In that same year, however, groups influenced in part or totally by religious or teleological motivations committed 10 of the 13 deadliest terrorist attacks. This shows trends that are difficult to explain with quantitative analysis alone, because even if the number decreases, lethality increases, as we well know after 11 September.

Returning to the threads of the discourse on international terrorism, the religious component is predominantly part of the problem of terrorism thanks to the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Although even before that date there were terrorist groups with religious connotations (think of the exasperated Catholicism of the IRA (Irish 28 Revolutionnary Army) or the Protestant loyalists of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) or the PLO itself, with a Muslim majority, their claims are above all political and non-religious, with a strong pre-eminence of ethno-nationalist and / or irredentist objectives.

The element of religion serves to connote a common belonging, functional to a cohesion of the group.

The Khomeynist revolution of 1979 brings new elements - that is, it takes up elements that are part of the Shiite cultural and spiritual heritage - in the international political landscape, but also in the spiritual dimension of Islam, both in its Shiite component and in the Sunni majority. Among the elements that Ayatollah Khomeyni, through his revolutionary movement, returns to history, the most important, for the purposes of our analysis, is that of martyrdom.

The re-evaluation of martyrdom - in its theoretical-theological component will serve as a basis for the activities of Hezbollah in Lebanon tormented by the civil war of the 80s, remaining relegated to a Shiite dimension.

Only in the first half of the nineties (1993) will it become a widespread practice also in the Sunni world, adopted by Palestinian groups. With the outbreak of the second intifadah (2000) or the al-Aqsa Intifadah, HAMAS, Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades began to make extensive use of it.

The Shiite martyrological doctrine refers, once again, to the tragedy of Karbala, or the historical-religious tradition of Islam of the seventh century, and revolves around the figure of Hussein, grandson of the Prophet and, as such, according to the Shiites, his only legitimate heir. The struggle for power will lead Hussein and his 72 supporters to clash with the Umayad army of Yazid on the plain of Karbala, the Sheykh designated to succeed the Prophet. Hussein will be massacred and his head carried through the cities and villages, shown to the population as a sign of destruction.

The concept of martyrdom (shahada) in Islam can be understood only in the light of the concept of jihād, and the concept of jihād can only be appreciated when compared to a Manichean dimension, which sees the tension towards good (alamr bi'l- maruf) and the appreciation of the "right" to discover what is "wrong".

Jihād is understood in the sense of a "virtuous effort", both personal and collective, and is an essential tool for gaining access to the afterlife. In fact, the Koran states: “Do you think you can enter Heaven without God knowing who among you has made an effort and been patient?

The terms shahada (martyrdom), and therefore shahid or istishhad ("martyr", but also "model") derive from the verbal root shahad, which means "to see", "to testify", "to become a model and a paradigm".

The shahid is a person who "sees" and who "gives his testimony". He himself is therefore a witness, a witness to a truth that he sees physically and for which he is ready to fight and fight, to the point of sacrificing his own life and thus becoming a martyr. In this sense and through his struggle and his sacrifice for the truth, he becomes a "model" for others, a paradigm, an example to follow and which deserves to be followed. In this process the key to reading is the " truth ”(haqq), its recognition and proclamation, the effort and struggle for its achievement and conquest.

Being prepared to die for the truth is the model for those who seek the truth. The fundamental purpose is to determine the truth, through the instrument of jihād, which can also lead to the ultimate sacrifice, to martyrdom. In this precise context it is not necessary to sacrifice oneself only on the battlefield (as happened for Hussein), but martyrdom can and must be perpetrated during the struggle for the search for truth and for its imposition. Therefore, according to this doctrinal conception, there can be neither jihād nor martyrdom outside the "kingdom of truth and, therefore, martyrdom can be valid, accepted and executed only if preceded by jihād, by the effort to search for truth and therefore a mujahed (fighter) dies as a martyr even if he does not fall on the battlefield.

But if martyrdom is considered an ideal and idealized death, the Koran in reality categorically and formally forbids the use of suicide. However, this question, as well as the innovations introduced by progress, are a matter of interpretation. According to some clergymen the acts of martyrdom (istishhad) are distinct and in no way attributable to suicide (intihar), since “the former are carried out by our young people under our inspiration. Suicide is a personal act and goes against God's plan.

Martyrdom is an act to get closer to God

In the Quran, suicide is explicitly referred to only once. In the Sura of Women (IV, 29) it says: “O you who believe, do not devour each other your goods, but trade with mutual consent and do not kill (…). Allah is merciful to you ”. The Koranic reference is flanked by some Hadith of the Prophet and numerous fatwā ', all against the practice of suicide. However, as recalled in a recent fatwā '(2000) on the war in Chechnya, probably issued by the Sheykh Hamud bin Uqla al-Shu'aybi, the ultra-conservative Wahhabi, the operations in which the mujahid immolates himself are not acts of suicide, but of "Martyrdom" or "self sacrifice". “The name of suicide operations, used by some, is imprecise and in fact this name was invented by the Jews to discourage our people from carrying out these operations. How great is the difference between one who commits suicide because of his unhappiness and who sacrifices himself in the name of the strength of his faith and his conviction, for the victory of Islam and for the exaltation of the Word of Allah.

For the Shiites, and in particular the militants of Hezbollah, Hussein's martyrdom is taken as a symbol for the struggle against the tyrants of the contemporary era. According to the interpretation given by the Shiite spiritual guide, Ayatollah Sayyed Mohamed Hussein Fadlallah, the tragedy of Karbala symbolizes human tragedy. It was embodied by a person - Hussein - who lived in the name of an entire people and of Islam, and who fought against the corruption of society. Hezbollah embodies the will of sacrifice to fight the tyranny of Israel and the United States, considered invaders, colonizers and corrupters of a pure society like the Islamic one.

To legitimize martyrdom, some groups resort to one of the jurisprudential sources par excellence, the Koran, taking up the themes that make the conflict iustum ac pium, or when the Islamic community can resort to conflict. In the first instance, this is to justify armed resistance and acts of war against France, Israel and the United States.

(photo: web / Michelchaton)