ISIS has “industrialized the concept of martyrdom” — launching suicide attacks as a military tactic to kill and intimidate enemy fighters, much like Japan’s use of kamikaze pilots during World War II, a report says.
The International Center for Counter Terrorism in The Hague has analyzed nearly 1,000 suicide attacks between Dec. 2015 and Nov. 2016 and found that the terror group has been using the method more than ever, and with great proficiency.
“ISIS’s suicide tacticians appear to have perfected their art, not only developing explosives that are more powerful and reliable than ever, but creating what appears to be a sustainable stream of utterly brainwashed would-be suicide fighters,” ICCT expert Charlie Winter wrote in the center’s report, which was published Tuesday.
“Behind every human bomb, there is a tactical or strategic objective,” he said. “The Islamic State uses suicide tactics in an unprecedented, unparalleled manner, one that has already transformed, almost beyond recognition, the conflict paradigm in Iraq, Syria and beyond.”
Using provincial reports and data from ISIS’s media outlet, the Amaq news agency, the ICCT researchers found that at least 923 jihadists had blown themselves up in attacks during the span that they studied.
While the terror group had used the tactic against enemies for years, the number of incidents apparently skyrocketed — rising from 61 bombings in Dec. 2015 to a record-breaking 132 in Nov. 2016, the report says.
Winter wrote that of the attacks, at least 776 — or roughly 84 percent — were aimed at military targets. About 70 percent, or 651, were carried out using vehicles, such as cars, trucks and tankers.
“[The Islamic State] industrialized the concept of martyrdom,” Winter explained. “Adopting an approach that is, tactically speaking, more in line with the kamikaze pilots of Imperial Japan than the terrorists of al-Qaida in the 2000s, ISIS has militarized suicide more sustainably than any other non-state actor to date.”
Winter wrote that it seemed as if ISIS was ultimately using the tactic as a means to an end.
“It seems that suicide attacks, which were adopted long ago as a result of strategic calculations, might now be motivated by something more tactical,” he said. “Indeed, in a manner not dissimilar to Imperial Japan, which formally adopted militarized suicide in the final stages of World War II after it had suffered a series of crippling strategic defeats, ISIS seems to have begun to resort to defensive suicide as a way to mitigate territorial loss and resist the immensity of the military pressure it faces.”
Of the people carrying out the suicide attacks, Winter and the ICCT experts found that only 20 percent of them were foreign fighters. The rest were mainly Iraqi or Syrian.
“Behind every human bomb, there is a tactical or strategic objective,” Winter explained. “The Islamic State uses suicide tactics in an unprecedented, unparalleled manner, one that has already transformed, almost beyond recognition, the conflict paradigm in Iraq, Syria and beyond.”
Winter and his team also discovered that the rate at which the suicide operations unfolded tended to change on a monthly, and sometimes even weekly basis.
“[The] flunctuations are not spontaneous,” Winter said. “Rather, they indicate that the Islamic State implements suicide attacks in a manner that is both carefully calculated and precisely coordinated.”
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