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Tactics of terrorism: Wikis


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Terrorist groups use various tactics to maximize fear and publicity. Terrorist organizations usually methodically plan attacks in advance, and may train participants, plant "undercover" agents, and raise money from supporters or through organized crime. Communication may occur through modern telecommunications, or through old-fashioned methods such as couriers.


Methods of attack

While terrorists act according to different motivations and goals, all such groups have one tactic in common: intimidation or coercion of the public or the government in order to effect social or political change.[1] Terrorism uses violence, or threat of violence, against one portion of a society to compel the greater body of that society or their leaders to make a change out of fear. Terrorism often exploits propaganda techniques to ensure the public receives the intended message. The term Propaganda of the Deed, coined by Malatesta, Cafiero, and Covelli, states that the message is most strongly conveyed through violence.[2]

In the media, terrorist violence is most commonly portrayed as being carried out via an improvised explosive device, although chemical weapons have been used on occasion. Vehicles from pick-up trucks to planes, like in the September 11, 2001 attacks, have been used as guided incendiary device. In the failed 2002 airliner attack shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles were fired at an airliner while taking off. Concerns have also been raised regarding attacks involving nuclear weapons or biological weapons.

However, despite the popular image of terrorism as bombings alone, and the large number of casualties and higher media impact associated with bombings, conventional firearms are as much if not more pervasive in their use. [3] In 2004, the European Council recognized the "need to ensure terrorist organisations and groups are starved of the components of their trade," including “the need to ensure greater security of firearms, explosives, bomb-making equipment and technologies that contribute to the perpetration of terrorist outrages."[4]

Terrorist groups may arrange for secondary devices to detonate at a slightly later time in order to kill emergency-response personnel attempting to attend to the dead and wounded. Repeated or suspected use of secondary devices can also delay emergency response out of concern that such devices may exist. Examples include a (failed) device that was meant to release cyanide-gas during the February 26, 1993 World Trade Center bombing; and a second car bomb that detonated 20 minutes after the December 1, 2001 Ben Yehuda Street Bombing by Hamas in Jerusalem.


There are and have been training camps for terrorists. The range of training depends greatly on the level of support the terrorist organization receives from various organizations and states. In nearly every case the training incorporates the philosophy and agenda of the groups leadership as justification for the training as well as the potential acts of terrorism which may be committed. State sanctioned training is by far the most extensive and thorough, often employing professional soldiers and covert operatives of the supporting state.


Preparation of a major attack such as the September 11, 2001 attacks may take years, whereas a simpler attack, depending on the availability of arms, may be almost spontaneous.


Where terrorism occurs in the context of open warfare or insurgency, its perpetrators may shelter behind a section of the local population. Examples include the intifada on Israeli-occupied territory, and insurgency in Iraq. This population, which may be ethnically distinct from the counter-terrorist forces, is either sympathetic to their cause, indifferent, or acts under duress.

Terrorists preparing for the September 11, 2001 attacks changed their appearance to avoid looking radical.


Funding can be raised in both legal and illegal ways. Some of the most common ways to raise funds are through front groups, charitable organizations, or NGOs with similar ideologies. In the absence of state funding, terrorists may rely on organized crime to fund their activities. This has included kidnapping, drug trafficking, or robbery. Additionally, terrorists have also found many more sources of revenue.


Even though old-school communication methods like radio are still used, the revolution in communication technology over the past 10-15 years has dramatically changed how terrorist organizations communicate. E-mails, fax transmissions, websites, cell phones, and satellite telephones have made it possible for organizations to contemplate a global strategy. However, too great a reliance on this new technology leaves organizations vulnerable to sophisticated monitoring of communication and triangulation of its source. When Osama bin Laden found out that his satellite phone conversations were being intercepted, he ceased using this method to communicate.[5] The only way to avoid your phones being used to track and listen to your conversations, even while off is to take out the battery.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Garrison, Arthur. 2004. "Defining Terrorism". Criminal Justice Studies. Vol 17. pp. 259-279
  3. ^ United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. "Conventional Terrorist Weapons". Retrieved 2007-09-06.  
  4. ^
  5. ^ Sageman, Marc. 2004. Understanding Terror Networks. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Ch. 5 pp. 158-161

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