Types of Terrorism

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Terrorism has been around for many years and its fundamentals are based on so many possible beliefs. Primarily, though, terrorism is the use of violence, or the threat to use bloodshed and mayhem to accomplish a religious, political, economic or ideological objective (Grothaus). The terrorist concept can be different depending on those who are identifying it, but it is commonly considered violent rampage by a decentralized group. There are many types of terrorism and they can generally be classified by the type of attack the agent uses, for example, cyberterrorism, or by the core of their concern, like narcoterrorism. 

Types of Terrorism

The primary types of terrorism are state terrorism, civil disorder, criminal terrorism, political terrorism, bioterrorism, cyberterrorism, ecoterrorism, nuclear terrorism, pathological and narcoterrorism (Grothaus; "James F. Jarboe”; Wilkinson). State terrorism is an act of force, or threat of force implemented by the state, with the objective of terrorizing its citizens to accomplish its fundamental goals. An example of state terrorism was the hold that the fascist Nazis party had over the German citizenry. Adolph Hitler implemented the philosophy, became its dictator, and took total control of the economic, political and cultural activities of the people, spreading racism and anti-semitism (Peikoff).   

Civil disorder is usually conducted with the goal of making a protest against an action or policy that is unpopular. Participants often want to send a message to those in charge. Civil disorder usually starts with non-violent intent, but often turns into displays of violence and riots where people are killed, injured or their property is destroyed (“Terrorism”). An example of civil disorder that resulted in terrorism occurred in April of 2001 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Racial tensions resulted in numerous fire stations and equipment being damages after several days of violence. Legions of individuals were injured, arson fires were started on cars, in trash and a variety of structures. The damage was widespread and there were 800 arrests for rioting and looting ("Safe Response to Civil Unrest Incidents"). 

Criminal terrorism often revolves around personal greed. It is usually related to financial gain and the targets are usually associated with their specific objectives, like banks or armored cars, and the terrorism is usually directed at a bank official or employees, the bank customers, or the armored car driver. Unlike a political terrorist that wants an audience for their beliefs, the criminal terrorist does not want an audience (Wilkinson).

Political terrorism involves violence against citizen for the purpose of making a political point or furthering political objectives (“Terrorism”). Political terrorism has been implemented by right wing and left wing political entities, groups with national objectives, revolutionaries, governments and religious groups. An example of political terrorism was the violent organization called the Weather Underground (“Terrorism - Political Social Terrorism"). The group was most active between the years 1969 and 1975. Member of the Underground were referred to as Weathermen, who were a splinter group from the larger organization known as Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). The SDS initially started as students who believed in protesting nonviolently on civil rights. When more and more youth were sent to fight in the Vietnam War, a controversial policy decision not shared by many, the SDS began to protest peacefully in the hopes of stopping the war. As time went on and some SDS member believed that they were not making a difference, they splintered off into the Weathermen and declare war on the U. S. government. The membership was responsible for approximately twenty four bombings, which included an army base, a bank, a courthouse, police headquarters, and even in SDS locations. When the war ended, those who had eluded capture and arrest, went into hiding, thus dissolving the membership (“Terrorism - Political Social Terrorism").

Bioterrorism is marked by the release of biological toxic agents that can cause harm to people and create a state of terror and fear. The cause of this form of terrorism can be political, or otherwise. The U. S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) categorizes the toxins that can be used for this purpose as Category A Biological Diseases, the most dangerous, for example; Anthrax, Botulism Toxin, Tularemia, Hemorrhagic Fever, Smallpox, and the Plague.

An example of bioterrorism occurred when the Rajneesh, a U. S. cult led by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, put Salmonella Typhimurium in the ingredients in a salad bar in eight restaurants in Oregon (Flynn). Hundreds of customers became ill with food poisoning.

Cyberterrorism is conducted by an individual or a group to attack their target, either other individuals, companies, governments or groups, for the purpose of furthering their cause, which can be social, political, religious, economic or otherwise (Holden). Cyberterrorist use technology, including computer systems and networks to carry out their attacks. Cyberterrorism is usually used to disrupt systems, disable networks, or hack into systems to gain access to private or financial information. An example of cyberterrorism is the malware called Stuxnet, “nicknamed the ‘world’s first digital weapon’” (Holden). Stuxnet had the capacity to cause “physical destruction to computer equipment and possible large-scale destruction – or cyber-war” (Holden). Though most often, cyberterrorism is related to the breach of commercial entities that the majority of a population makes use of, like hacking into well known banks and credit card companies (Sidel). 

Ecoterrorism is the implementation of criminal violence or the threat of the use of criminal violence against innocent citizens or property, by an environmentalist group for environmental reasons ("James F. Jarboe”). An example of ecoterrorism is the formation of disaffected members of the environmental organization Greenpeace organized to become the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society whose objective it was to cause harm to commercial fishing operators through damaging and cutting their drift nets set to catch fish ("James F. Jarboe”). Another ecoterrorist group is the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). This group is one of the most active and extremist groups in America. These group members engage in criminal actions with the goal of creating economic loss or destruction of a target company’s enterprise. The ALF has performed attacks against fur companies, animal research labs, restaurants, and mink farmers.

Nuclear terrorism is the acquisition and use of nuclear weapons or nuclear materials to create nuclear devices and the utilization or threat of use of these weapons (Cirincione). Recently, the Brussels ISIS bombers responsible for blowing up the Zaventem Airport, and the Maalbeek Metro Station were discovered to be videotaping a Belgian official from the nuclear industry. The official worked at a location containing radiological resources that could be implemented into dirty bombs. Although it is not clear that a kidnap plot was imminent, since they did manage to bomb the airport and metro, acquiring nuclear radioactive materials would have been a logical next step for the group. The risks include terrorist stealing nuclear bomb making ingredients, for example enriched plutonium or uranium. The terrorist would not be able to create a nuclear bomb on their own, because large high-tech facilities are needed to accomplish this, however, if they could secure just a few pounds of uranium, fifty or so pounds worth, they could create a Hiroshima like bomb. The biggest threat in the nuclear arena is ISIS, with its vast access to money, land and worldwide networks. Bombs such as those created by these smaller amounts of radioactive ingredients could kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people (Cirincione).

Pathological terrorism is a form of terrorism used by individuals who simply enjoy terrorizing people (Grothaus). Generally, a pathological terrorist operates independently, rather than in a group structure. In addition, unlike other forms of terrorism, they do not have a specific political, ideological, economic or religious goal, yet their actions still serve to place other individuals in fear and their actions are marked by terroristic violence. The best example of a pathological terroristic event is that of the Columbine High School tragedy in Colorado, where on April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed twelve students and one teacher, and injured 24 others at the school. The attack included ninety nine explosive devices, a fire bomb, propane gas tanks placed in the cafeteria, and car bombs. At the end of the tragedy, they committed suicide (Grothaus).

Narcoterrorism involves two types of terrorism, one used by international drug dealers that engage in this practice to increase their profits, or general terrorist who use the drug trade to finance their operations (Lawrence). Latin America is the focal point for most narcoterrorism eruptions. The two types of narcoterrorist have been targeted by law enforcement, public policy and regulations that have negatively impacted them, but have not ended their reign. Consequently, these terrorists engage in their activities to further advance their goals and make better and more profitable headway into the narcotics trade. (Lawrence).

Motivations of Terrorists

The motivations of terrorist are many. Some terrorist organizations have religious objectives, others have political intent, some are bound by ideological causes, others are influenced by economic or social goals ("Goals and Motivations of Terrorists"). Religious terrorists are motivated by what they believe to be the advancement of their religious convictions and beliefs. An example of a recent, at least partially motivated religious attack was that of Chechen brothers Dzhokhar Anzorovich Tsarnaev and the late Tamerlan Anzorovich Tsarnaev, who rendered the Boston Marathon bombing of April 15, 2013, motivated in part by radical Islam (Henderson).

Political terrorist are influenced by their political views which can be right wing or left wing in nature. They are motivated by an overarching moral perspective that justifies their actions in their mind (Wilkinson). Their fundamental point of view is that if you follow our principles, the world will be better for all of us.

Ideological terrorist rally behind a specific ideology which motivates their cause, this is similar to those who kill abortion doctors or bomb their clinics. Ideologically they believe that abortion is bad, that it is a killing of a life, and they do not mind killing or maiming to make their point.

Economic terrorist simply seek financial gain. Some terrorist types need money to fund other motivations, like religious or political beliefs.

Social terrorists are generally motivated by a perceived social injustice and their targets are often symbolically represented by authority, like governments ("Goals and Motivations of Terrorists").

Works Cited

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