Monday, March 08, 2010

 

Research Reveals New Profile of Suicide Bombers

Bombing Probe Leads to Iraqi Psychiatric Hospital
NPR
by Peter Kenyon
February 27, 2008

U.S. military officials in Baghdad say they're investigating whether the acting director of a psychiatric hospital in the Iraqi capital was involved with two female suicide bombers who killed nearly 100 people earlier this month.

Fear that al-Qaida in Iraq or other insurgents are using mentally ill Iraqis as bombers swept through the al-Rashad hospital, where records show the two women had been treated. Doctors say the panicked reaction has added to their many problems.

Until this month, the al-Rashad psychiatric hospital in eastern Baghdad was known as just another struggling medical facility, with some 1,200 patients under the care of just eight doctors.

Then, on Feb. 1, two women exploded suicide vests at pet markets in Baghdad, killing 99 people in the bloodiest attack in more than nine months.

Nine days later, U.S. forces raided the hospital, arresting Dr. Sahi Aboub, the facility's acting director, and confiscating computers and medical records. Some media quoted anonymous officials as saying the two suicide bombers had Down syndrome and speculated that the director may have been supplying patients to insurgents.

Several days later, Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, a military spokesman, said there was no evidence that the women had Down syndrome. But, he said, they had been treated for depression or schizophrenia, and the military still thinks al-Qaida in Iraq was pursuing mentally ill patients, possibly through the Rashad doctor, who remains in custody...


March 8, 2010


March 7, 2003
Research Reveals New Profile of Suicide Bombers
BOB EDWARDS, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

...Mr. SCOTT ATRAN (Anthropologist): There's this knee-jerk reaction that people who do this have to be maniacs or cowards, uneducated or miserable or in despair, and none of this seems to be true at all.

JOYCE: Working at the University of Michigan and the National Center for Scientific Research in France, Atran has collected surveys of failed suicide bombers and of the families of successful bombers. These surveys were done by Pakistani relief workers, as well as Israeli and Western psychologists and economists. They also interviewed members of terror organizations and studied their literature. What the researchers found contradicted the stereotype of the terrorist fanatic.

Mr. ATRAN: These people are fairly well educated, mostly from middle class and not acting at all in despair.

JOYCE: Atran summarizes these findings in today's issue of the journal Science. He notes that the government of Singapore recently published a similar report on Asian terrorists linked to al-Qaeda that found the same trend.

At Princeton University, economist Alan Krueger has studied not only bombers but the views of the Palestinian public on terror attacks aimed at Israelis. Again, surveys found no link between poverty and illiteracy and support for terror.

Mr. ALAN KRUEGER (Princeton University): I think there's very little connection between economic circumstances and support for terrorism or maybe even an opposite relationship, from what most people suspect.

JOYCE: As for the bombers themselves, Krueger says terrorist literature indicates they are more likely to come from the ranks of middle-class college students.

Mr. KRUEGER: I think that in the West, we think very much in terms of materialistic terms. And we think, you know, `Who could possibly want to give up their lives for a cause? It must be someone who has nothing to live for,' whereas I don't think that's what's motivating the people who participate in terrorism.

JOYCE: What does motivate suicide bombers then? Eyad Sarraj has some ideas on that. Sarraj is a Palestinian psychiatrist and director of the Mental Health Community Center in Gaza. He talked with NPR last year after a spate of attacks by suicide bombers.

Dr. EYAD SARRAJ (Mental Health Community Center Director): We're not talking about all of them, but most of them are usually very nice, timid, introvert, have had a problem with power in their childhood, and most of them have had personal experience with serious traumatic events in their lives and particularly witnessing the helplessness of their fathers and the humiliation of their fathers.

JOYCE: But suicide bombers rarely act alone. They are recruited and supported by terrorist organizations. Scott Atran at the University of Michigan says these organizations often use religion and religious rites to create a sort of ritual communion, or bonding, among would-be bombers.

Mr. ATRAN: And this sort of ritual communion often includes gestures of submission and trust, kneeling, bowing, prostrating, baring throats and chests, as well as courtship and bonding. And you find that in forming their suicide cells, the sponsors, these often charismatic sponsors of suicide terrorism, consciously manipulate these kinds of communion to form very tight-knit groups willing to die for one another...





NPR News
March 8, 2010
Who Carries Out Suicide Bombings?

...Fair says another obstacle is that Afghan suicide bombers are not celebrated like their counterparts in other Arab nations. Afghan bombers are not featured on posters or in videos as martyrs, and their remains are not carried through town in raucous funeral parades.

"Many parents don't even seem to know that their child or their relative blew themselves up in this act," Fair says.

She says there is another difference between bombers in Afghanistan and other countries. A bomber in Afghanistan kills an average of three victims, compared with an average of 12 elsewhere. Also, United Nations interviews with would-be bombers in Afghanistan have found that most are young and poorly educated.

"So, the good news is that they are not as lethal as they are in other theaters.

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