Reviewing Neo-terrorism after a decade of 9/11

Date01 June 2011
Published date01 June 2011
Subject MatterArticle
Reviewing Neo-terrorism
after a decade of 9/11
Prabhat Kumar*
Although a new kind of international terrorism was perceptible with the 9/
11 strikes, the sound of its footstep was heard in the last decade of
twentieth century itself when the World Trade Centre (WTC) was bombed
in 1993. Later, in 1996 Khobar Towers were also bombarded in Saudi
Arabia. And then in 1998, bombs were exploded in front of US Embassies
in Nairobi and Tanzania. These were seen as initial incidents and
landmarks of a new kind of terrorism. Therefore, scholars and
commentators had started defining neo terrorism during late 1990s. Walter
Laqueur, in his book, The New Terrorism : Fanaticism and the arms of
Mass Destruction- defines new terrorism while differentiating it from the
traditional kind of terrorism. He writes:
'Traditional terrorism, whether of the separatist or the
ideological (left or right) variety, had political and social aims,
such as gaining independence, getting rid of foreigners, or
establishing a new social order. Such terrorist groups aimed at
forcing concessions, from their antagonists. The new terrorism
is different in character, aiming not at clearly defined political.
demands but at the elimination of large sections of the
population. In its most extreme form, this new terrorism
intends to liquidate all satanic forces, which may include the
majority of a country or of mankind, as a precondition for the
growth of another, better and in any case different breed of
human. In its maddest, most extreme form it may aim at the
destruction of all life on earth, as the ultimate punishment for
mankind's crimes.' (Laqueur, 1999: 81)
It is obvious that Walter Laqueur tries to differentiate between new and
traditional kinds of terrorism through their motives, methods and mindset.
He suggests that new breed of terrorists want only destruction of lives and
do not have any particular demand related to their grievances, if any. While
* Ph.D. Research Scholar at the Department of International Relations, Jadavpur
University and Fellow of Indian Council of Social Science Research, New Delhi.
126 Prabhat Kumar
the traditional terrorists used to perform terrorist activities in view of their
demands, the neo terrorists believe in using violence at the extreme level
without any particular goal. Laqueur had prophesied long before 9/11
regarding the objectivity of new terrorists when he wrote that in its most
extreme form, this new terrorism may aim at mass destruction. This
prophesies seem to have come true in the first decade of twenty- first
Gus Martin also describes the new terrorism and says that it 'is
characterized by the threat of weapons of mass destruction, indiscriminate
targeting, and potentially high casualty rates-as was the case in the attacks
of September 11, 2001.' (Martin 2003 218-19)
The method, technique and ability of the 9/11 attack to create havoc -
all of them had indicated that Osama Bin Laden and his network
was behind this attack. There were many clear evidences which pointed to
Al Qaeda masterminding this attack. The first evidence was that the attack
was fully planned and systematically arranged. It needed years of
preparation to carry out such kind of attack. Only Al Qaeda had had the
resources and worldwide network to fund and coordinate such planning.
Second, earlier Al Qaeda had been involved in similar type of attacks. US
Embassy bombing of 1998 and WTC bombing plot of 1993 had also been
planned similarly. (The Hindustan Times, 2001) Third, the planning style
for this attack was similar to the style often adopted by Al Qaeda. The
group was working in a 'cell' type method. They used to rent apartments,
acquired local people's support in connection with their operation and
acted like 'sleepers' and used to become active whenever necessary. (Geary
To proceed further and in order to explain how modern terrorism is
different from traditional terrorism, we need to understand the nature of
neo terrorism and distinct methods and mindset of neo terrorists.
Following are the unique features and distinctive characteristics of the new
face of terrorism.
Nature of Neo-terrorism
The distinct nature and emerging pattern of contemporary terrorism
distinguishes it from the traditional form of terrorism and makes it a new
type of terrorist phenomenon. There are some unique features of neo
terrorism and
kinds of methods are employed making it novel and
international. With the attack of
on the USA, international terrorism

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