Methods of Attack


Terrorism can reach the public in a number of ways:

  • Bombings. Terrorists use bombs to inflict damage on buildings or vehicles as well as to kill or injure. Some bombs are hidden by terrorists and set off with timers, while others are detonated by “suicide bombers” who have chosen to sacrifice their lives along with those of their victims.
  • Bioterrorism. Chemical or biological agents are released into the atmosphere with the intent of contaminating or killing people. Examples are the attack using poisonous gas on the Tokyo subway system in 1995 and the series of anthrax-laced letters mailed in the United States in 2001.
  • Kidnapping. Individuals or groups can be kidnapped and held hostage in return for some demand. Often terrorists demand the release of other terrorists from prison as a requirement for releasing their hostages. Government officials, members of the press, and foreign nationals are the most frequent victims of kidnapping.
  • Assassination. Terrorists often carry out assassinations of government leaders or diplomats, with the intention of causing a government or a powerful political movement to collapse.

The element of fear is what makes terrorism so difficult to tackle. Once a community has been victimized by a terrorist attack, people become fearful that more attacks will occur. Societies that fall prey to numerous terrorist attacks often develop a sense of resignation, going about their daily business despite any potential danger. For a community that experiences terrorism for the first time, or isolated incidents of terrorism, fear comes from another key element: surprise.