Why Suicide Terrorism?

Suicide terrorism is significantly costly—from the terrorist organization’s standpoint, it destroys a valuable asset (the suicide terrorist). Thus, there is a puzzle as to why the organization would opt for suicide tactics.

There are three main explanations:

  1. Strategic Concerns: Suicide terrorism is more destructive than other forms of violence, as every bomb becomes a “smart” bomb capable of finding the most destructive place to detonate. It also leaves no one behind for authorities to question and extract intelligence from.
  2. Costly Signaling: Suicide terrorism credibly demonstrates the resolve of the organization and its followers, which might make the target more willing to back down.
  3. Outbidding: Terrorist organizations need to worry about the business of terrorism. The flashiness of suicide attacks drives more donations and new recruits to that particular organization and less to competing groups.