Women suicide bombers: The secular temptation for Al Qaida

Thursday, March 4, 2004

TEL AVIV A report by Tel Aviv University's Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies said Al Qaida Al Qaida has been tempted to follow secular groups that have based many of their strikes on women operatives.

The study said Al Qaida could increase its use of women suicide bombers to ensure the success of operations.

Researcher Yoram Schweitzer cited the prosecution of two Moroccan teenage girls who sought to blow themselves up in a supermarket in 2003. The case was seen as the start of an Al Qaida campaign to recruit women suicide attackers, Middle East Newsline reported.

"It is also possible that Al Qaida and its affiliated groups, whose leaders have thus far refrained from involving women in their operations except in a support role, will change course in the future," the report, entitled "Female Suicide Bombers for God, said. "The religious-ideological distance that Al Qaida will have to travel in order to involve women in suicide bombings apparently constitutes a difficult challenge for it."

[On Tuesday, more than 100 Shi'ites were killed in a series of bombings, including a suicide strike, in Baghdad and Karbala. The bombings took place during the Shi'ite Ashura ceremonies and included a rocket strike on a mosque.]

Palestinian insurgency groups have made considerable use of women suicide bombers. The report said at least six women were sent by Palestinian security insurgency groups for suicide operations. More than twice this number volunteered for suicide missions, but were caught before they could reach their targets.

Over the last decade, women suicide bombers have been used by the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, the Kurdish Workers Party in Turkey and Chechen insurgency groups. Women comprise about half of the suicide bombings by Chechens.

The report said Al Qaida and other Islamic insurgency groups have debated the use of women bombers. But Islamic groups have determined that women can obtain greater access to their targets and attract less attention than males.

The women recruited for suicide attacks undergo intense indoctrination and manipulation, the report said. But Islamic groups were not expected to give women more than a marginal role in operations.

"Still, if tactical-operational considerations require that and the promised result seems worthwhile in their eyes, they may well cross that Rubicon, too, and then find some retroactive religious justification," the report said. "In short, there is a real prospect that fundamentalist terrorists will begin to imitate their secular counterparts and make much greater use of female suicide bombers in the future."

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