On the morning of September 11, 2001, nineteen members of Al-Qaeda hijacked four airplanes and deliberately crashed two into the upper floors of the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center, and the third crashed into the Pentagon building in Arlington. , Virginia.
Both towers eventually collapsed due to the damage they sustained. After passengers on the fourth hijacked plane learned of the attacks, they resisted the hijackers and the plane crashed into an empty field in western Pennsylvania, about 20 miles from Washington, DC DC, killing all on board.
But before these bloody suicide attacks, which left 2,977 dead, history has seen many suicide attacks, but with different tools.
The first suicide attacks in history are believed to have been carried out by a group of Jewish fanatics who were spreading terror among Romans and Jews after the Roman occupation of Jerusalem.
These extremists were known as “Sicari”, meaning little daggers. They hid their small daggers under their clothes until they found themselves next to Roman soldiers or Jews who collaborated with the Romans.
The group fled to Masdah Castle near the Dead Sea after being hunted and persecuted in Jerusalem. The group lived in the castle for a while until the Romans destroyed it after the siege of the castle. After the entry of the Romans, it became clear that all the members of the group, numbering about a thousand people, committed suicide.
This group was active between 66 and 73 AD.
The second largest group that has launched suicide operations throughout history, and many stories and legends are spread about them, are the followers of Hassan Al-Sabah, one of the extremists of the Ismaili sect.
After capturing it in 1090, Hassan Al-Sabah took the fortress of Alamut, located in present-day Iran, to lead a group of professional raiders who relied on deception and superior courage to carry out their operations.
Hassan Sabah’s followers, known as the Assassins, continued to sow terror and fear among Muslim and Crusader rulers in the region through the terrifying methods he used to eliminate his opponents. Among the most famous operations carried out by the Assassins is the assassination of Vizier Nizam al-Mulk, who held a high position under the Seljuk king Alp Arslan and his son Malakshah.
Historical sources say that in 1092, the Vizier Nizam al-Mulk was in Isfahan, with the Seljuk Sultan Alp Arslan, and a boy from among the assassins came to him in the form of a beggar or a lawyer, and when he approached him, he took out a knife that hid and fatally stabbed him, and relatives of Nizam al-Mulk overtook the boy and killed him.
Assassins also tried twice to kill Saladin, when one of them attacked with a dagger, but he escaped death thanks to the metal cap he wore under his turban and the metal shield he wore under his clothes.
In 1167, the Spanish Rabbi Benjamin of Toledo embarked on a 13-year journey through the Middle East and Asia. His description of Syria included what was probably the first European description of the killers. The rabbi explained that they were a sect of warriors hidden in mountain fortresses who obeyed a mysterious leader known as the “Sheikh of the Mountain”.
Over the next two centuries, crusaders and travelers returning from the East told tales of the group, adding exciting new details to the legend of the killers. They were said to be experts in the art of assassination, trained from childhood in the use of stealth and deception, and were so devoted to their leader that they would sacrifice their lives at the slightest signal from him.
The first suicide operation in the modern era was carried out by a revolutionary in Russia on March 13, 1881, targeting the Tsar of Russia.
A member of the Russian revolutionary group Narodnaya Volya, Belarusian Ignatius Grentievsky, detonated a bomb in his possession while Tsar Alexander II was outside his car inspecting the site of the bomb explosion moments before, near his convoy.
The attacker and the emperor were killed within hours of each other on the same day, and the attacker was only a meter and a half away from the emperor.
But the most famous suicide operations of the 20th century were the Japanese “kamikaze” attacks on Allied forces during World War II, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of Allied soldiers and the destruction of dozens of warships in 1944 and 1945.
Japanese kamikaze pilots deliberately rammed their planes into enemy targets, mostly Allied ships.
“Kamikaze” refers to a suicide pilot, as well as to aircraft used in attacks such as those widely used today in the Ukraine war.
Japan used this tactic on a large scale during the Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944 and continued to use it until the end of the war.
Kamikaze means “holy wind”, referring to the typhoon that dispersed the Mongol invasion fleet that threatened Japan from the west in 1281.
Most of the kamikaze planes were ordinary fighters or light bombers, loaded with bombs and extra fuel tanks before taking off and hitting their targets.
The Japanese also developed a pilot-guided missile to attack enemy targets. The Allies named this missile “Baka”, which means fool in Japanese, because they believed that those who piloted such missiles were just fools.
The pilot had no way to get out and escape when the missile was attached to the plane that was about to launch it. The projectile was usually dropped from an altitude of over 7,500 meters and approximately 80 km from the target.
The rocket slowly descended towards the target, and when it was five kilometers away, the pilot started the rocket’s three engines, launching it at a speed of 960 km/h as it headed towards the target. The explosive charge in the missile’s warhead weighed more than a ton.
Kamikaze attacks sank 34 ships and damaged hundreds more during the war. During the Battle of Okinawa, these attacks inflicted the greatest loss ever recorded on the Allied forces in a single battle, as nearly five thousand men were killed and 300 warships were sunk and damaged.
The Japanese used large-scale kamikaze attacks in this battle, as their number reached 1,900 operations.
Among the requirements for kamikaze pilots was that they be single and have aviation experience. And they were trained on how to shoot targets with their planes and how to use weapons.
Self-sacrifice during the battle was considered a fulfillment of duty to the country and the emperor by the kamikaze pilots and an expression of loyalty to the Japanese people and preservation of personal dignity.
During the final months of World War II, German pilots conducted semi-suicide raids by ramming their planes into Allied aircraft to damage them and prevent them from launching raids and attacks on German targets.
Several German pilots also carried out actual suicide attacks in the final days of the war.
At the end of World War II, suicide bombings stopped, and during the Cold War between East and West, we saw almost no suicide bombings until Israel attacked Lebanon.
The Lebanese resistance, which included leftist forces and Lebanese nationalist Shiite parties, launched a series of suicide attacks against Israeli forces. Perhaps the most significant of these attacks was that of Syrian Hamida Al-Taher who drove a car bomb and detonated it at a joint location of the Israeli army and the South Lebanese army in the Jezzine region in 1985.
But the most significant suicide attack in Lebanon took place in 1983, when two suicide bombers from the Shiite Islamic Jihad movement, close to the Lebanese Hezbollah (the party denies any connection with both attacks), targeted the headquarters of the Marines and the French in the capital of Lebanon, on the 23rd. October 1983
The two attacks resulted in the deaths of hundreds of French marines and paratroopers deployed to Lebanon as part of a multinational force.
The death toll in the two attacks rose to 299 US Marines, French sailors and paratroopers.
Before these two bloody attacks, the American Embassy in Beirut was attacked by a suicide bomber on April 18, 1983 at around 1 pm local time, when his truck loaded with approximately a ton of explosives crashed into the building. , killing 63 people, including 17 Americans were injured, including eight CIA officers, and more than a hundred others. The Islamic Jihad movement claimed responsibility for the attack.
After that, suicide operations increased and affected different regions of the world, especially the Middle East region, where the Palestinian movements Hamas and Islamic Jihad carried out numerous suicide attacks in Israel, while al-Qaeda began to launch dozens of these operations, starting with the Khobar attack in Saudi Arabia in 1988. Two suicide bombings also targeted the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in the same year.
Not all suicide attacks are religiously motivated and do not fulfill the duty of “jihad”. Tamil Tiger fighters launched many of these attacks on military targets in Sri Lanka during the armed struggle to establish their own homeland, although the Tamil Tiger movement is secular.