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Terrorism Represents The Most Significant Threat Criminology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 2132 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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To start with, Terrorism is not a new phenomenon; it was first used in the 18th century during French Revolution, but its definition is still a subject of debate in the international bodies. The term Terrorism has been defined differently by different people, governmental, non-governmental and international organisations in the field of international relations and beyond.

Within the United States of America Terrorism is defined differently, taking some examples, The United States Department of Defence defines terrorism as “the calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.” [2] However The FBI uses a different definition as: “Terrorism is the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” [3] 

Outside the United States, there are greater variations in other features of terrorism; United Nations defines Terrorism in 1992 as;

“An anxiety-inspiring method of repeated violent actions, employed by (semi-) clandestine individuals, groups or state actors, for idiosyncratic, criminal or political reasons, whereby – in contrast to assassination – the direct targets of violence are not the main targets.” [4] 

The Key legal definition of terrorism in the UK legislation is contained in the Terrorism Act (2000);

“In this Act “terrorism” means the use or threat of action where-

(a) The action falls within subsection

(b) The use or threat is designed to influence the government or an

International governmental organisation or to intimidate the public

Or a section of the public, and

(c) The use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a political,

religious or ideological cause. [5] 

One of the most comprehensive and solid studies of modern terrorism required more than a hundred pages to survey and compare the various definitions. [6] Walter Laqueur, as frustrated with the proliferation of the definition of terrorism concludes that “any definition of political terrorism venturing beyond noting the systematic use of murder, injury and destruction or threats of such acts towards achieving political ends is bound to lead to endless controversy.”

As a result it can be predicted with confidence that the arguments about a comprehensive and detailed definition of terrorism will continue for a long time that they will not result in an agreement and that they will make no notable contribution towards the understanding of terrorism. [7] 

Sometimes it might be just easy to generalize terrorist groups, whereas at other times it is important to recognize significant differences because they can be critical for shaping policy responses. In the sense that they have all engaged in acts that meet most definition of terrorism. The Irish Republican Army (IRA), and Al-Qaeda, can all be considered terrorist organisations. Whereas, they are very different in terms of their motives, goals and objectives, as well as the attacks committed. The IRA can be viewed as a traditional terrorist in the sense that they involve in small scale bombings, “they also tend to calibrate their use of violence, using enough to rivet world attention but not much as to alienate supporters abroad. [8] “

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Al-Qaeda on the other hand, has much more open political and religious goals and is motivated by a particular form of religious fundamentalism; its tactics and the scale of attacks are in a very different level with the IRA. Although terrorism is not a new thing but the September 11 attack suggests that the world will be dealing with something very different, September 11 is very different type terrorism from what the world is used to. It is particularly significant because religious motivated organisations have been increasing in number since the 1980s. According to Hoffman, “only two of the sixty-four groups active in 1980s, could be classified as predominantly religious in character.” The majority of terrorist groups were nationalist and ethnic in nature, but by 1995, however religious groups are nearly half of the sixty-four known in the 1980s. [9] 

In addition to the organisations that fuse fundamentalist religious doctrine with political aims, there are also groups like the Aum Shinrikyo in Japan, that conduct a Sarin Nerve gas attack or the Tokyo subway in March, 1995, killing twelve people and taking as many as 5000 to the hospital. [10] Generalisation of terrorist or terrorism organisations can sometimes be complicated, because recognising their motives can make it easier to respond its problems.

Terrorism is posing severe threats to the whole array of securities. Threats now come from far end not just from neighbouring states. The world today is faced with the problem of the proliferation of nuclear weapons by different states, which has a lot of threat to the international security. The Bombing of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 demonstrates that terrorism is and will remain a central threat to international security as the 21st century has approached.

Bombs are the most common form of weapons used by terrorists groups around the world. Many experts fear that terrorists will ultimately resort to weapon of mass destruction terrorism, because they talk about it lot and videos and training manuals that deals with Weapon of Mass Destruction, have been seized from their training camps. [11] However researchers who had an interview with imprisoned terrorists found that the terrorists are not interested in Weapon of Mass Destruction. [12] 

Terrorism is seen as the unpredictable mix of threats in today’s International security; some see terrorism as the fundamental security threat of the 21st Century, while others argue that it is a minor stress compared to greater threat of global warming or other fatal diseases. Still some group of people argue that terrorist violence is insignificant compared to daily travel accidents in many developed countries. [13] 

Terrorism affects the foreign policy of many nations. A huge number of lives have been destroyed, and material goods worth billions also destroyed. People live in continuous fear of insecurity, because they do not know the next turn of events, or where it would take place. [14] International terrorism continues to pose difficult challenges to the world and human security in the international system. Apart from the fear of insecurity terrorism brings about, it also reflects in economic decline, and unemployment, it brings about poverty and a general sense of frustration amongst the victims of terrorism. [15] 

Although the total number of terrorist’s incidents has declined worldwide in the 1990s, the percentage of terrorist incidents resulting to fatalities has nonetheless increased. According to the (Research and development) RAND-St. Andrews Chronology of International Terrorism, the number of terrorist attacks has declined in the late 1990s. [16] 

Table 1

Source: RAND, ‘RAND Database of Worldwide Terrorism Incidents’, at: http://www.rand.org/nsrd/projects/terrorism-incidents/

Table 2. List of Significant Terrorist Attacks from 2001-2009 [17] 




Luanda, Angola

10 Aug 2001

Attack on train

152 146

United States of America

11 Sep 2001

crashing of hijacked planes into World Trade, Centre Pentagon and site in Pennsylvania

2,993 8,900

Kuta, Indonesia

12 Oct 2002

car bombing outside nightclub

202 350

Madrid, Spain

11 Mar 2004

Bombings of 4 trains

191 1,876

Kadhimiya and Karbala, Iraq

2 Mar 2004

multiple suicide bombings at shrines

188 430


21 Feb 2004

Armed attack and arson at refugee camp

239 60

Baghdad, Iraq

14 Sep 2005

Multiple suicide bombings and shooting attacks

182 679

Hilla, Iraq

28 Feb 2005

Car bombing outside medical clinic

135 130

Baghdad, Iraq

23 Nov 2006

Multiple car bombings

202 250

Mumbai, India

11 Jul 2006

multiple bombings on commuter trains

200 714

Baghdad, Iraq

18 Apr 2007

multiple bombings

193 197

Armili, Iraq

7 Jul 2007

multiple suicide truck bombings

182 270

Al-Qataniyah and Al-Adnaniyah, Iraq

14 Aug 2007

multiple car bombings

520 1,500

Hilla, Iraq

6 Mar 2007

two suicide bombings and additional attacks

137 310

Luanda, Angola

10 Aug 2001

attack on train

152 146

Mumbai, India

26-29 Nov 2008

multiple shooting and grenade attacks and hostage takings


includes 9 terrorists killed

Peshawar, Pakistan

28 Oct 2009

bombing at marketplace

118 200

Baghdad, Iraq

25 Oct 2009

two vehicle bombings at government buildings

155 540

Baghdad, Iraq

8 Dec 2009

five car bombings

127 448

Sources: Shimko Keith. ‘International Relations, Perspectives and Controversies’ (USA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008). RAND, ‘RAND Database of Worldwide Terrorism Incidents’, at: http://www.rand.org/nsrd/projects/terrorism-incidents/

From the table above, it shows clearly how Terrorism is posing significant threat to innocent civilians around the world, killing hundreds and thousand of innocent people; the ‘New’ terrorism of the Al Qaeda network has entirely replaced the ‘Old’ terrorist regimes and movements of the last 3 decades, by far the most worrying and significant trend in terrorism globally is the increase in lethality and towards indiscriminate attacks in public places.

World terror represents a true modern epidemic that threatens the very survival of the free world. This shows that terrorism is the most significant threat in International Relations today.


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