“If my brother had been a British soldier and there were British people in that prison and the act of heroism or bravery that he did, I know he would have been awarded the posthumous Victoria Cross.” Brother of suicide bomber Abdul Majeed Waheed.
Using the body as a bomb, where one sacrifices his or her body for the greater good of their community (in other words for altruistic purposes) is not new, it is centuries old, writes Dr Ilyas Mohammed.
The act has its roots in Pagan and Abrahamic religions. The modern day version is not based on a sacred commandment which a religious authority performs. Instead, long protracted conflicts and wars create the conditions which lead some individuals to volunteer and groups to adopt human bombing.
In today’s societies, converting the body into a weapon of war and attacking the enemy in the main is associated with Islam and Muslims through the activities of various Al Qaeda affiliated groups in places such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Syria.
Using the body as a weapon for political causes has been used in a number of conflicts and wars over the past 80 years, as part of a strategy to neutralize the military advantages of the enemy.
In most cases individuals volunteer to become bombers because of the moral outrage which they have experienced through the actions of their enemy. For some, the experience of one violent event is sufficient to compel them. In other cases, it is the incremental impact of many violent events.
Contemporary use of body as a weapon
There are a number of contemporary conflicts where groups have seen it necessary to use the body as a strategic weapon. Generally groups contend that the men, women and children that become human bombers are volunteers but it is difficult to imagine that children would willingly make this choice.
and groups affiliated or inspired by the organization employ human bombers as a military tactic. The Tamil Tigers in their conflict against the Sir Lankan state used human bombers. Lebanese and Palestinian groups have used human bombers in their on-going conflict with Israel.
The Chechen rebels use human bombers in their conflict with Russia, they are often known as the “black widows.” The Kurdistan Workers’ Party used human bombers in their conflict against the Turkish state. And there is one reported incident of Sikh group – Khalistan Commando Force – using a human bomber as tactic against the Indian state, in their quest to establish an independent Sikh state.
The use of the body as a weapon during World War II
During World War II, the Japanese army used Kamikaze pilots to attack the US Navy in the Pacific. The decision to adopt this strategy was to overcome the overwhelming firepower of the US. The pilots were motivated by nationalism.
The German Air Force -Luftwaffe also flew Selbstopfereinsatz (suicide bombing missions) during World War II against the Soviet Union and the Allied Forces. The pilots were known as the Kamikaze Flieger. The Germans decided to use Kamikazes because they were at a military disadvantage, and quickly wanted to regain the upper hand.
The Vietnamese during their war of independence from 1946 – 1954 against France used volunteers known as the “death volunteers” to attack the French army. In modern day vocabulary we would call the volunteers “suicide bombers or human bombers.” The volunteers strapped themselves with explosives and threw themselves at French defences. Like the Germans and the current groups that employ human bombing, the Vietnamese wanted to overcome the overwhelming firepower of the French forces.
The above examples suggest that when groups or conventional armies are facing overwhelming military disadvantages, they can resort to strategies which involve using the “body as a bomb.” Therefore, this tactic should not be considered as the prerequisite of one type of group but as something which all political and religious groups, as well as conventional armies, are capable of employing.