Although the total volume of terrorist incidents world-wide has declined in the

1990s, the proportion of persons killed in terrorist incidents has steadily
risen. For example, according to the RAND-St Andrews University Chronology of

International Terrorism,5 a record 484 international terrorist incidents were
recorded in 1991, the year of the Gulf War, followed by 343 incidents in 1992,

360 in 1993, 353 in 1994, falling to 278 incidents in 1995 (the last calendar
year for which complete statistics are available).6 However, while terrorists
were becoming less active, they were nonetheless becoming more lethal. For
example, at least one person was killed in 29 percent of terrorist incidents in

1995: the highest percentage of fatalities to incidents recorded in the

Chronology since 1968–and an increase of two percent over the previous year’s
record figure.7 In the United States this trend was most clearly reflected in

1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Since
the turn of the century, fewer than a dozen of all the terrorist incidents
committed world-wide have killed more than a 100 people. The 168 persons
confirmed dead at the Murrah Building ranks sixth on the list of most fatalities
caused this centuryin a single terrorist incident–domestic or international.8

The reasons for terrorism’s increasing lethality are complex and variegated, but
can generally be summed up as follows: The growth in the number of terrorist
groups motivated by a religious imperative; The proliferation of
“amateurs” involved in terrorist acts; and, The increasing
sophistication and operational competence of “professional”
terrorists. Religious Terrorism The increase of terrorism motivated by a
religious imperative neatly encapsulates the confluence of new adversaries,
motivations and rationales affecting terrorist patterns today. Admittedly, the
connection between religion and terrorism is not new.9 However, while religion
and terrorism do share a long history, in recent decades this form particular
variant has largely been overshadowed by ethnic- and nationalist-separatist or
ideologically-motivated terrorism. Indeed, none of the 11 identifiable terrorist
groups10 active in 1968 (the year credited with marking the advent of modern,
international terrorism) could be classified as “religious.”11 Not
until 1980 in fact–as a result of the repercussions from the revolution in Iran
the year before–do the first “modern” religious terrorist groups
appear:12 but they amount to only two of the 64 groups active that year. Twelve
years later, however, the number of religious terrorist groups has increased
nearly six-fold, representing a quarter (11 of 48) of the terrorist
organisations who carried out attacks in 1992. Significantly, this trend has not
only continued, but has actually accelerated. By 1994, a third (16) of the 49
identifiable terrorist groups could be classified as religious in character
and/or motivation. Last year their number increased yet again, no to account for
nearly half (26 or 46 percent) of the 56 known terrorist groups active in 1995.

The implications of terrorism motivated by a religious imperative for higher
levels of lethality is evidenced by the violent record of various Shi’a Islamic
groups during the 1980s. For example, although these organisations committed
only eight percent of all recorded international terrorist incidents between

1982 and 1989, they were nonetheless responsible for nearly 30 percent of the
total number of deaths during that time period.13 Indeed, some of the most
significant terrorist acts of the past 18 months, for example, have all had some
religious element present.14 Even more disturbing is that in some instances the
perpetrators’ aims have gone beyond the establishment of some theocracy amenable
to their specific deity,15 but have embraced mystical, almost transcendental,
and divinely-inspired imperatives16 or a vehemently anti-government form of
“populism” reflecting far-fetched conspiracy notions based on a
volatile mixture of seditious, racial and religious dicta.17 Religious
terrorism18 tends to be more lethal than secular terrorism because of the
radically different value systems, mechanisms of legitimisation and
justification, concepts of morality, and Manichean world views that directly
affect the “holy terrorists'” motivation. For the religious terrorist,
violence first and foremost is a sacramental act or divine duty: executed in
direct response to some theological demand or imperative and justified by
scripture. Religion, therefore functions as a legitimising force: specifically
sanctioning wide scale violence against an almost open-ended category of
opponents (e.g., all peoples who are not members of the religious terrorists’
religion or cult). This explains why clerical sanction is so important for
religious terrorists19 and why religious figures are often required to
“bless” (e.g., approve) terrorist operations before they are executed.
“Amateur” Terrorists The proliferation of “amateurs”
involved in terrorist acts has also contributed to terrorism’s increasing
lethality. In the past, terrorism was not just a matter of having the will and
motivation to act, but of having the capability to do so–the requisite
training, access to weaponry, and operational knowledge. These were not readily
available capabilities and were generally acquired through training undertaken
in camps known to be run either by other terrorist organisations and/or in
concert with the terrorists’ state-sponsors.20 Today, however, the means and
methods of terrorism can be easily obtained at bookstores, from mail-order
publishers, on CD-ROM or even over the Internet. Hence, terrorism has become
accessible to anyone with a grievance, an agenda, a purpose or any idiosyncratic
combination of the above. Relying on these commercially obtainable published
bomb-making manuals and operational guidebooks, the “amateur”
terrorist can be just as deadly and destructive21–and even more difficult to
track and anticipate–than his “professional” counterpart.22 In this
respect, the alleged “Unabomber,” Thomas Kaczynski is a case in point.

From a remote cabin in the Montana hinterland, Kaczynski is believed to have
fashioned simple, yet sophisticated home-made bombs from ordinary materials that
were dispatched to his victims via the post. Despite one of the most massive
manhunts staged by the FBI in the United States, the “Unabomber” was
nonetheless able to elude capture–much less identification–for 18 years and
indeed to kill three persons and injure 23 others. Hence, the
“Unabomber” is an example of the difficulties confronting law
enforcement and other government authorities in first identifying, much less,
apprehending the “amateur” terrorist and the minimal skills needed to
wage an effective terrorist campaign. This case also evidences the
disproportionately extensive consequences even violence committed by a lone
individual can have both on society (in terms of the fear and panic sown) and on
law enforcement (because of the vast resources that are devoted to the
identification and apprehension of this individual). “Amateur”
terrorists are dangerous in other ways as well. In fact, the absence of some
central command authority may result in fewer constraints on the terrorists’
operations and targets and–especially when combined with a religious fervour–fewer
inhibitions on their desire to inflict indiscriminate casualties. Israeli
authorities, for example, have noted this pattern among terrorists belonging to
the radical Palestinian Islamic Hamas organisation in contrast to their
predecessors in the ostensibly more secular and professional,
centrally-controlled mainstream Palestine Liberation Organization terrorist
groups. As one senior Israeli security official noted of a particularly vicious
band of Hamas terrorists: they “were a surprisingly unprofessional bunch.
. . they had no preliminary training and acted without specific
instructions.”23 In the United States, to cite another example of the
potentially destructively lethal power of amateur terrorists, it is suspected
that the 1993 World Trade Center bombers’ intent was in fact to bring down one
of the twin towers.24 By contrast, there is no evidence that the persons we once
considered to be the world’s arch-terrorists–the Carloses, Abu Nidals, and Abul

Abbases–ever contemplated, much less attempted, to destroy a high-rise office
building packed with people. Indeed, much as the inept World Trade Center
bombers were derided for their inability to avoid arrest, their modus operandi
arguably points to a pattern of future terrorist activities elsewhere. For
example, as previously noted, terrorist groups were once recognisable as
distinct organisational entities. The four convicted World Trade Center bombers
shattered this stereotype. Instead they comprised a more or less ad hoc
amalgamation of like-minded individuals who shared a common religion, worshipped
at the same religious institution, had the same friends and frustrations and
were linked by family ties as well, who simply gravitated towards one another
for a specific, perhaps even one-time, operation.25 Moreover, since this more
amorphous and perhaps even transitory type of group will lack the
“footprints” or modus operandi of an actual, existing terrorist
organization, it is likely to prove more difficult for law enforcement to get a
firm idea or build a complete picture of the dimensions of their intentions and
capabilities. Indeed, as one New York City police officer only too presciently
observed two months before the Trade Center attack: it wasn’t the established
terrorist groups–with known or suspected members and established operational
patterns–that worried him, but the hitherto unknown “splinter
groups,” composed of new or marginal members from an older group, that
suddenly surface out of nowhere to attack.26 Essentially, part-time time
terrorists, such loose groups of individuals, may be–as the World Trade Center
bombers themselves appear to have been–indirectly influenced or remotely
controlled by some foreign government or non-governmental entity. The suspicious
transfer of funds from banks in Iran and Germany to a joint account maintained
by the accused bombers in New Jersey just before the Trade Center blast, for
example, may be illustrative of this more indirect or circuitous foreign
connection.27 Moreover, the fact that two Iraqi nationals–Ramzi Ahmed Yousef
(who was arrested last April in Pakistan and extradited to the United States)
and Abdul Rahman Yasin–implicated in the Trade Center conspiracy, fled the

United States28 in one instance just before the bombing and in the other shortly
after the first arrests, increases suspicion that the incident may not only have
been orchestrated from abroad but may in fact have been an act of
state-sponsored terrorism. Thus, in contrast to the Trade Center bombing’s
depiction in the press as a terrorist incident perpetrated by a group of
“amateurs” acting either entirely on their own or, as one of the
bomber’s defence attorneys portrayed his client manipulated by a “devious,
evil . . . genius”29 (Yousef), the original genesis of the Trade Center
attack may be far more complex. This use of amateur terrorists as
“dupes” or “cut-outs” to mask the involvement of some
foreign patron or government could therefore greatly benefit terrorist state
sponsors who could more effectively conceal their involvement and thus avoid
potential military retaliation by the victim country and diplomatic or economic
sanctions from the international community. Moreover, the prospective
state-sponsors’ connection could be further obscured by the fact that much of
the “amateur” terrorists’ equipment, resources and even funding could
be entirely self-generating. For example, the explosive device used at the World

Trade Center was constructed out of ordinary, commercially-available
materials–including lawn fertiliser (urea nitrate) and diesel fuel–and cost
less than $400 to build.30 Indeed, despite the Trade Center bombers’ almost
comical ineptitude in avoiding capture, they were still able to shake an entire
city’s–if not country’s–complacency. Further, the “simple” bomb used
by these “amateurs” proved just as deadly and destructive–killing six
persons, injuring more than a 1,000 others, gouging out a 180-ft wide crater six
stories deep, and causing an estimated $550 million in both damages to the twin
tower and in lost revenue to the business housed there31–as the more
“high-tech” devices constructed out of military ordnance, with timing
devices powered by computer micro-chips and detonated by sophisticated timing
mechanisms used by their “professional” counterparts.32
“Professional” Terrorists Finally, while on the one hand terrorism is
attracting “amateurs,” on the other hand the sophistication and
operational competence of the “professional” terrorists is also
increasing. These “professionals” are becoming demonstrably more adept
in their trade craft of death and destruction; more formidable in their
abilities of tactical modification, adjustment and innovation in their methods
of attack; and appear to be able to operate for sustained periods of time while
avoiding detection, interception and arrest or capture. More disquieting, these
“professional” terrorists are apparently becoming considerably more
ruthless as well. An almost Darwinian principle of natural selection seems to
affect subsequent generations of terrorist groups, whereby every new terrorist
generation learns from its predecessors, becoming smarter, tougher, and more
difficult to capture or eliminate. Accordingly, it is not difficult to recognise
how the “amateur” terrorist may become increasingly attractive to
either a more professional terrorist group and/or their state patron as a pawn
or “cut-out” or simply as an expendable minion. In this manner, the
“amateur” terrorist could be effectively used by others to further
conceal the identity of the foreign government or terrorist group actually
commissioning or ordering a particular attack. The series of terrorist attacks
that unfolded in France last year conforms to this pattern of activity. Between

July and October 1995, a handful of terrorists, using bombs fashioned with
four-inch nails wrapped around camping style cooking-gas canisters, killed eight
persons and wounded more than 180 others. Not until early October did any group
claim credit for the bombings, when the radical Armed Islamic Group (GIA), a
militant Algerian Islamic organization, took responsibility for the attacks.

French authorities, however, believe that, while “professional”
terrorists perpetrated the initial bombings, like-minded “amateurs”–
recruited by the GIA operatives from within France’s large and increasingly
restive Algerian expatriate community were responsible for at least some of the
subsequent attacks.33 Accordingly, these “amateurs” or new recruits
facilitated the campaign’s “metastasising” beyond the small cell of
professionals who ignited it, striking a responsive chord among disaffected

Algerian youths in France and thereby increasing exponentially the aura of fear
and, arguably, the terrorists’ coercive power. Likely Future Patterns of

Terrorism While it can be argued that the terrorist threat is declining in terms
of the total number of annual incidents in other, perhaps more significant
respects–e.g., both the number of persons killed in individual terrorists
incidents and the percent of terrorist incidents with fatalities in comparison
to total incidents–the threat is actually rising. Accordingly, it is as
important to look at qualitative changes as well as quantitative ones; and to
focus on generic threat and generic capabilities based on overall trends as well
as on known or existing groups. The pitfalls of focusing on known, identifiable
groups at the expense of other potential, less-easily identified, more amorphous
adversaries was perhaps most clearly demonstrated in Japan by the attention long
paid to familiar and well-established left-wing groups like the Japanese Red

Army or Middle Core organisation with an established modus operandi,
identifiable leadership, etc. rather than on an obscure, relatively unknown
religious movement, such as the Aum Shinri Kyu sect. Indeed, the Aum sect’s
nerve gas attack on the Tokyo underground34 arguably demarcates a significant
historical watershed in terrorist tactics and weaponry.35 This incident clearly
demonstrated that it is possible–even for ostensibly “amateur”
terrorists–to execute a successful chemical terrorist attack and accordingly
may conceivably have raised the stakes for terrorists everywhere. Accordingly,
terrorist groups in the future may well feel driven to emulate or surpass the

Tokyo incident either in death and destruction or in the use of a
non-conventional weapon of mass destruction (WMD) in order to ensure the same
media coverage and public attention as the nerve gas attack generated. The Tokyo
incident also highlights another troubling trend in terrorism: significantly,
groups today claim credit for attacks less frequently than in the past. They
tend not to take responsibility much less issue communiqu?s explaining why
they carried out an attack as the stereotypical, “traditional”
terrorist group of the past did. For example, in contrast to the 1970s and early

1980s, some of the most serious terrorist incidents of the past
decade–including the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing–have never been credibly
claimed–much less explained or justified as terrorist attacks once almost
always were–by the group responsible for the attack.36 The implication of this
trend is perhaps that violence for some terrorist groups is becoming less a
means to an end (that therefore has to be calibrated and tailored and therefore
“explained” and “justified” to the public) than an end in
itself that does not require any wider explanation or justification beyond the
groups’ members themselves and perhaps their specific followers. Such a trait
would conform not only to the motivations of religious terrorists (discussed
above) but also to terrorist “spoilers”–groups bent on disrupting or
sabotaging multi-lateral negotiations or the peaceful settlement of ethnic
conflicts or other such violent disputes. That terrorists are less frequently
claiming credit for their attacks may suggest an inevitable loosening of
constraints–self-imposed or otherwise–on their violence: in turn leading to
higher levels of lethality as well.37 Another key factor contributing to the
rising terrorist threat is the ease of terrorist adaptations across the
technological spectrum.38 For example, on the low-end of the technological
spectrum one sees terrorists’ continuing to rely on fertiliser bombs whose
devastating effect has been demonstrated by the PIRA at St Mary Axe and Bishop’s

Gate in 1991 and 1992; at Canary Wharf and in Manchester in 1996; by the
aforementioned World Trade Center bombers and the persons responsible for the

Oklahoma City bombing. Fertiliser is perhaps the most cost-effective of weapons:
costing on average one percent of a comparable amount of plastic explosive. Its
cost-effectiveness is demonstrated by the facts that the Bishop Gate blast is
estimated to have caused $1.5 billion and the Baltic Exchange blast at St Mary

Axe $1.25 billion. The World Trade Center bomb, as previously noted, cost only
$400 to construct but caused $550 million in both damages and lost revenue to
the business housed there.39 Moreover, unlike plastic explosives and other
military ordnance, fertiliser and its two favourite bomb-making
components–diesel fuel and icing sugar–are readily and easily available
commercially, completely legal to purchase and store and thus highly attractive
“weapons components” to terrorists and others. On the high-end of the
conflict spectrum one must contend not only with the efforts of groups like the

Aum to develop chemical, biological and nuclear weapons capabilities, but with
the proliferation of fissile materials from the former-Soviet Union and the
emergent illicit market in nuclear materials that is surfacing in Eastern and

Central Europe.40 Admittedly, while much of the material seen on offer as part
of this “black market” cannot be classified as SNM (strategic nuclear
material, that is suitable in the construction a fissionable explosive device),
such highly-toxic radioactive agents can potentially be easily paired with
conventional explosives and turned into a crude, non-fissionable atomic bomb
(e.g., “dirty” bomb). Such a device would therefore not only
physically destroy a target, but contaminate the surrounding area for decades to
come.41 Finally, at the middle-end of the spectrum one sees a world awash in
plastic explosives, hand-held precision-guided-munitions (i.e., surface-to-air
missiles for use against civilian and/or military aircraft), automatic weapons,
etc. that readily facilitate all types of terrorist operations. During the

1980s, Czechoslovakia, for example, sold 1,000 tonnes of Semtex-H (the explosive
of which eight ounces was sufficient to bring down Pan Am 103) to Libya and
another 40,000 tonnes to Syria, North Korea, Iran, and Iraq–countries long
cited by the U.S. Department of State as sponsors of international terrorist
activity. In sum, terrorists therefore have relatively easy access to a range of
sophisticated, “off-the-shelf” weapons technology that can be readily
adopted to their operational needs. Concluding Observations and Implications for

Aviation Security Terrorism today has arguably become more complex, amorphous
transnational. The distinction between domestic and international terrorism is
also evaporating as evidence by the Aum’s sects activities in Russia and

Australia as well as in Japan, the alleged links between the Oklahoma City
bombers and neo-Nazis in Britain and Europe, and the network of Algerian Islamic
extremists operating in France, Great Britain, Sweden, Belgium and other
countries as well as in Algeria itself. Accordingly, as these threats are both
domestic and international, the response must therefore be both national as well
as multinational in construct and dimensions. National cohesiveness and
organisational preparation will necessarily remain the essential foundation for
any hope of building the effective multinational approach appropriate to these
new threats. Without internal (national or domestic) consistency, clarity,
planning and organisation, it will be impossible for similarly diffuse
multinational efforts to succeed. This is all the more critical today, and will
remain so in the future, given the changing nature of the terrorist threat, the
identity of its perpetrators and the resources at their disposal. One final
point is in order given the focus of this conference on aviation security.

Serious and considerable though the above trends are, their implications
for–much less direct effect on–commercial aviation are by no means clear.

Despite media impressions to the contrary and the popular mis-perception
fostered by those impressions, terrorist attacks on civil aviation–particularly
inflight bombings or attempted bombings–are in fact relatively rare. Indeed,
they account for only 15 of the 2,537 international terrorist incidents recorded
between 1970 and 1979 (or .006 percent) and just 12 of 3,943 recorded between

1980 and 1989 (an even lower .003 percent). This trend, moreover, has continued
throughout the first half of the current decade. There have been a total of just
six inflight bombings since 1990 out of a total of 1,859 international terrorist
incidents. In other words, inflight bombings of commercial aviation currently
account for an infinitesimal–.003–percent of international terrorist
attacks.42 At the same time, the dramatic loss of life and attendant intense
media coverage have turned those few tragic events into terrorist
“spectaculars”: etched indelibly on the psyches of commercial air
travellers and security officers everywhere despite their infrequent
occurrence.43 Nonetheless, those charged with ensuring the security of airports
and aviation from terrorist threats doubtless face a Herculean task. In the
first place, a defence that would preclude every possible attack by every
possible terrorist group for every possible motive is not even theoretically
conceivable. Accordingly, security measures should accurately and closely
reflect both the threat and the difficulties inherent in countering it: and
should therefore be based on realistic expectations that embrace realistic
cost-benefit. Indeed, there is a point beyond which security measures may not
only be inappropriate to the presumed threat, but risk becoming more
bureaucratic than genuinely effective.