Suicide bombers target Herat [CNN: 5-30-2011]

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Monday May 30 2011 12:55 pm

A suicide attack (also known as suicide bombing) is a type of attack in which the attacker expects or intends to die in the process. In the late 17th century, Qing official Yu Yonghe recorded that injured Dutch soldiers fighting against Koxinga’s forces for control of Taiwan in 1661 would use gunpowder to blow up both themselves and their opponents rather than be taken prisoner. However, the Chinese observer may have confused such suicidal tactics with the standard Dutch military practice of undermining and blowing up positions recently overrun by the enemy which almost cost Koxinga his life during the siege. During the Belgian Revolution, Dutch Lieutenant Jan van Speijk detonated his own ship in the harbour of Antwerp to prevent its capture by the Belgians. Another example was the Prussian soldier Karl Klinke on 18 April 1864 at the Battle of Dybbøl, who died blowing a hole in a Danish fortification. In the 18th century John Paul Jones wrote about Ottoman sailors setting their own ships on fire and ramming the ships of their enemies, although they knew this meant certain death for them. Modern suicide bombing as a political tool can be traced back to the assassination of Tsar Alexander II of Russia in 1881. Alexander fell victim to a Nihilist plot. While driving on one of the central streets of Saint Petersburg, near the Winter Palace, he was mortally wounded by the explosion of hand-made grenades and died a few hours afterwards. The Tsar was killed by a member of Narodnaya Volya, Ignacy Hryniewiecki, who died while intentionally exploding the bomb during the attack. Rudolf Christoph Freiherr von Gersdorff intended to assassinate Adolf Hitler by suicide bomb in 1943, but was unable to complete the attack. During the Battle for Berlin the Luftwaffe flew Selbstopfereinsatz against Soviet bridges over the Oder river. These missions were flown by pilots of the Leonidas Squadron under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Heiner Lange. From 17 April until 20 April 1945, using any aircraft that were available, the Luftwaffe claimed that the squadron destroyed 17 bridges, however the military historian Antony Beevor when writing about the incident thinks that this was exaggerated and that only the railway bridge at Küstrin was definitely destroyed. He comments that ‘thirty-five pilots and aircraft was a high price to pay for such a limited and temporary success’. The missions were called off when the Soviet ground forces reached the vicinity of the squadron’s airbase at Jüterbog. Following World War II, Viet Minh ‘death volunteers’ fought against the French Colonial Forces by using a long stick-like explosive to destroy French tanks. The number of attacks using suicide tactics has grown from an average of fewer than five per year during the 1980s to 180 per year between 2000 and 2005, and from 81 suicide attacks in 2001 to 460 in 2005. These attacks have been aimed at diverse military and civilian targets, including in Sri Lanka, in Israel since July 6, 1989, in Iraq since the US-led invasion of that country in 2003, and in Pakistan and Afghanistan since 2005. Nearly all modern suicide attacks are by radical Islamists, with a notable exception being the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka. In Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, suicide bombing is an overt Islamist and anti-Israel strategy against the Israelis. Between October 2000 and October 2006 there were 167 clearly identified suicide bomber attacks, with 51 other types of suicide attack. It has been suggested that there were so many volunteers for the ‘Istishhadia’ in the Second Intifada in Israel and the occupied territories, such was the tactics growing popular acceptance, that recruiters and dispatchers had a ‘larger pool of candidates’ than ever before, with one Fatah interviewee stating that they were’ flooded’ with applicants. Suicide attacks have also been common in Iraq and Afghanistan. Suicide bombings have become a tactic in Chechnya, first being used

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