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Hijacking, Suicide Bombings and the Actors Participating in Radical Attacks: Analytical Essay

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Fearfulness has been created in the public domain around organized crime with major attention around hijacking since 9/11/2001(Strang, 2018). The definition of hijacking has been characterised as a form of hostage-taking.

Silke (2019) classified hostage-taking in to three different approaches, in which is defined that removal of a person against their will is determined by the form of restrain. Kidnapping as a form of hostage-taking to an unknown location, hijacking as the seizure of public transport, such as, train, airplane, bus, maritime vessels or private car, and barricade-siege as a form of self-barricade in to a certain location (Silke, 2019). From this stand point, it can be argued that all actions include a form of kidnapping with deliberate obstruction of freedom and implementation of fear. The element of civilian obduction has been certified as a terrorist act due to the characteristics of political or religious elements. Kidnapping and hijacking have a common element of restricting the freedom of civilians in order to proclaim personal ideologies, beliefs or political and religious views.

The means of conducting the act makes the difference between hijacking and the kidnapping act. Kidnaping can be described as the restriction of a person with a domestic or organizational motivation. Furthermore, kidnapping does not meet the terrorism criteria if it’s not conducted as a form of inflicted fear with a political or religious agenda. The common cause of kidnapping and hijacking is motivation, and the reaction of the public perception on the event (Strang, 2018, Sanyal, 2018, Silke, 2019).

Hijacking in its form of crime is seen as a terrorist act due to the nature of past events, the killing of the hostages with a political or religious motivation and the trauma perceived by all nations. Media coverage used to recruit and/or spread recognition of the organization’s capability and strength in order to obtain further support for the cause (Rasmussen, 2017).

One of the difficulties encountered by the international community is the definition of terrorism, that obstructs the agreement on a universal definition and the agreement of prosecution and punishment, state jurisdiction and the law of extradition (Probandary, 2018).

Looking at the statistical deaths in the USA, according to the National Health Service (Viscusi & Zeckehauser, 2003) terrorism has the minimum number of victims compared with death by car accident or smoking, in a terrorist attack there is a lack of choice. Individuals that smoke or the ones driving are accepting the risk, and the risk is known before any action is taken. Viscusi & Zeckhauser are explaining the difference between causal death such as car accident or smoking and the sudden death caused by terrorist attacks. In their opinion the difference lies on the compensation of the risk associated with the action. In other words, any action taken that has possible small negative side effects will be carried out as long as it has a positive outcome (Viscusi & Zeckehauser, 2003).

The most explanatory event has been the 9/11/2001 attack in US that led to the death of 3000 people, the nature of the attack had paralysed the world (Viscusi & Zeckhauser, 2003, Merari, 2009). United States as any other country couldn’t prevent such an event to happened and the magnitude of the event have not been dealt with before, it was the world’s most appalling event. Differences from past terrorist attacks to 9/11, is the method used to implement fear and the mass killing of civilians in a country of high national security development. Actions of the 9/11 lead to a faster change around what terrorist attacks look like, and to what extent terrorist can impose fear and anxiety (Grace, 2018).

Hijacking requiers a higher sophisticative logistical level of organization and premeditation to act upon. The increase of surveilance, security and inteligence service has led to a dimise of the risk factors, however there is an increase of kidnapping with the same purpose. Individual act of kidnapping evolved with the believe that government and media will give segnficant attention to the organisation along with the potential resource gain (Rasmussen, 2017). There is no certenty that any security plan can elliminate the risk factor of future hijack or kidnapp, both actions are intertwinded by the restrain of civilians with uncertanty of how, who, when and where attacks will occur (Strang2015, Merari, 2009).

Psychological characteristics of the offender (the offender)

In any terrorist attack the motivation stand behind political and religious ideologies, implementation of fear, anxiety and doubt on the capability of a state to protect the civilians (Sanyal, 2018)

Over the years many academics had tried to explain and understand the psychology of suicide terrorists. Within the hijacking act the argument made by many is the lack of direct psychological assessment due to their death.

Empirical research conducted on 462 suicide terrorists, based on medical reports and past evidence of suicide intents concluded that none out of suicide terrorist of 9/11/2001 had any history of mental health or suicidal behaviour. Furthermore, none of them had any recorded history of psychiatric problems, depression or psychoses (Lankford, 2018).

From a different perspective, a small sample research done on non-successful suicide bombers, suggested that suicide bombers are classified as martyrdom as the willingness to die is for a greater cause and its defined as God’s will. Martyrdoms are showing low ego strengths enabling them to act independently, low self-control over stressful factors and lack of coping mechanism (Merari, 2009). During the interviews, carried out in the prison premises, 40% of them revealed suicidal tendencies and 53% as having depressive predispositions (Merari, 2009). Post-traumatic stress disorder, impulsive and emotional instability can attract terrorist leaders to recruit such individuals and promote the martyr mission as a mean of virtue.

Contradictory, several researchers interviewing leaders of terrorist organisations, suggested that there is no intent of working with incapacitated individuals or presenting any sings of suicide or mentally ill and the only persons that are engaging with are presenting ideological commitment, intelligent, psychologically fit to plan and succeed in their actions (Atran, 2003). Furthermore, Lankford (2018) in he’s research had presented several articles suggesting that motivation for joining terrorist’s organization and/or suicide for the cause it is not merely related to individuals with financial disadvantage, nothing to lose or psychological affected by war or past trauma. Supporting this evidence, it is presented the study of Iraq invasion and the raise of recruiting supporters in more than 30 countries around the world (Lankford, 2018). Hijacking it is not an act carried out by an individual, all of the hijacked attacks are planed and organized by groups. From this perspective, the leaders and its supporters have a greater impact on the plan and the delivery of the act. Individuals indoctrinated in religious believes, socially and emotionally affected by political conflict, have a greater predisposition to join terrorist groups and act against any other society or government that stands against their moral views. Personality factors alone cannot explain such behaviour without a social meaning.

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There are numerous debates around the psychology or mental capacity and/ or motivational factors of terrorism supporters, majority with attention towards the martyrdom as it produces a major element of fear, anxiety, uncertainty and trauma.

There is no single profile that can be applied to hijackers or kidnapers, kidnapers involved in terrorist acts, that can explain the singularity characteristics of willingness to suicide and cause terror in the wide society by taking innocent civilian’s lives.

Even though the research conducted by Merari and his colleges has a very small sample, based solely on Palestinian suicide bombers, this research contains important data suggesting that suicide tendencies, impulsive and unstable personality along with post-traumatic stress syndrome odded to the terrorist group a valuable weapon to act with (Merari, 2009).

Leader are often characterised as masters of manipulation, shaping individual’s behaviour inculcating extremist ideologies, enemy conspiracy and presenting austerity against their religion and believes. From another perspective there is a factor of direct intent to use terrorist groups with the aim of suicide shifting from a sin to a martyr death (Atran, 2003, Lankford, 2018, Merari, 2009)

Religious and political extremist views, possible psychological instability, access to weapons, support and manipulation from a terrorist organisation, personal motivation plus social disadvantages all factors can increase the potential of suicide bombers, hijackers or any terrorist act.


Understanding violent extremist behaviour had been the attraction of many academics since 1970’s (Decety, 2018). Theoretical explanations had been assessed through psychological, religious, economic and political perspectives. It has been proved that not all violent terrorists share the same profile and same ideologies. Terrorist organisations are

defined by actions of violence to achieve political attention as a response to external stimuli in which all external actors are seen as rivals (Decety,2018). Violence is a tool of proclaimed recognition of what is seen as rightful, pursuing demands of political change, religious believes and policies. Terrorist activists are ‘fanatics but not mad’ (Decety, 2018: 511), not necessarily psychological disadvantage there are more likely to be ordinary people (Decety,2018, Ozmadar, 2008). From a theoretical perspective, hijacking can be analysed through the biopsychosocial model as the phenomenon had presented all factors as a matter of concern. Through identity fusion model it can be explored the link between personality and social self, in which the ties between individuals develops strong collective relations creating strong shared behaviour (Swan, 2012). Equally emotional disturbed communities drawn on social identity merge into relation ties following same goals that in some groups the trauma, deprivation, loss and inequality may contribute in varying individual’s actions towards radicalization (Decity, 2018, Swann, 2012). History have proved that religion has a major influence on political thoughts and individual’s social interaction (Ozdmar, 2008). From a religious perspective Evolutionary theory will argue that is a genetic predisposition and environmental input that developed a strong believe in the supernatural agents (Sois & Alcorta, 2008). Strong believe in supernatural entities and the trauma after war and/or government austerity inculcating a feeling of helplessness and fear can led to the establishment of outlaw groups, in this scenario terrorist groups (De Masi, 2011, Sois & Alcorta, 2008). Hijacking and religion have a label element that transforms the suicide individual or the extreme believer into a martyr, a person that strongly believes in the power of their own religion as the only religion. Religion as social interaction acts as an integration and regulation of the individual behaviour explained as social anomie in which organizations will support suicide justifying their actions as a will of God and in the name of the community (Pape, 2005, De Masi, 2011).

Biological factors, internal mechanisms such as the sensory, motor and cerebral systems are used in order to achieve their tasks and goals. The capacity to control over their own life style is part of the human nature, this capacity is conducted through motivations followed by actions creating a functional neurobiological substrate of social and symbolistic desires (Bandura, 2001.) This in turn, can provide them with a sense of meaningfulness, direction and fulfillment to their lives.

Furthermore, it is suggested that terrorism is a rational choice in which success, benefit and cost promote their own self-interest motivation. Rational choice theorists support the idea that individuals are motivated by their desires and goals and tend to socialise with groups that share same believes, goals and/or provide for the achievement of proposed objectives (Scott, 2000). Looking at hijacking, rational choice theory will argue that is the sophistication and organisational element that tends to attract individuals to join terrorist groups by offering the weapon supply and the help of organization to be able to reach their goal. This theory has been arguable as De Masi (2011) sustains that the suicide bombers are driven by the trauma of war, invasion and discrimination as personal and local problematic interference by western society. Self-sacrifice used as a form of liberation, triggered by sever deprivation and shared suffering with and intent to show what it means to be a victim (De Masi, 2011, Whitehouse, 2018).

Disruption of the normally integrated community, perception of the environment as hostile affects the function of the consciousness, identity or perception of the individual peace of mind.

Treatment recommendations (intervention and rehabilitation)

This essay has focused on the hijacking and the actors participating in such radical attacks, from this perspective it is highlighted that the treatment and the recommendations of this type of offence had changed severely since 9/11/2001 and had been highlighted the economic impact on managing changes in the security of airports, rail stations and legislations towards passengers. The screening process and the risk management against terrorist threat has to consider a multitude of scenarios and evaluate the choices taken by the terrorists at any given time during the attack (Kaewunruen, 2018, Garrick, 2004). Understanding the nature of terrorist actions and the selection of the victims can improve security design to prevent terrorism. It is highlighted that the successful terrorist attacks are based on the ability of the extremists to bypass the security system that is design to prevent and deter their actions (Yacov & Horowitz, 2004). Changes around security in United States airports showed a 93% lower risk of terrorist attacks including hijacking and a 35% probability of a failed bomb detonation even thought terrorist are more likely to be educated and well prepared (Steward & Muller, 2018).

Looking at the psychological and theoretical aspect of the martyrdoms and terrorist attitudes the probability of success it can be higher that what is presented by Steward & Miller (2018), even though the security system had demised the probability of terrorist organization to bypass the system, the ability to learn from other’s failures is still a matter of further research. Tomas (2018) acknowledged that even though the Unite State had financed and improve the national security just in 2017 were register 7 terrorist attacks in different locations. Access to technology and cyber hijacking it represents a figure of concerns for future shattering events that can not be prevented and have same inculcation of fear, anxiety and trauma. This becomes a new growing trend that enables security to keep up with the new risk factors and new threats that can create a state of terror (Tomas, 2018)

Nevertheless, hijacking has more potential as the technology becomes more sophisticated and the security systems are at continuous risk. Hostage taken has been the major concern for any national security in the world and it will not vanish as long as the terrorist organisations are not completely disarmed. There is a need of further research around new trends of hostage-taking with terrorist intent, better understanding of new trends of terrorism that can improve relations and possibility of negotiations.

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