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How significant was 9/11?

What is a terrorist? Why do people become terrorist?

What are the causes of terrorism?

How has the nature of terrorism changed in the 20th and 21st Century?

What were the events that led to 9/11?

What happened on 9/11?

How was 9/11 portrayed by the US government and the western media?

How was 9/11 portrayed by al –Qaeda and other terrorist groups?

How was 9/11 portrayed in the media in non-Western countries?

How did the US and the West respond to 9/11 in the short term?

Why is 9/11 significant today?

How has the nature of terrorism changed in the 20th and 21st Century?

A brief overview of the ways in which terrorist groups have operated in the 20th and 21st centuries:

In the early twentieth century one of the most often used terrorist methods was that of Assassination. By targetting a significant individual the terrorist groups aimed to undermine the establishment and make it clear that they were willing and able to hit the authorities where it hurt. Pre-War assassinations included Umberto I of Italy, assassinated in July of 1900 and Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria Hungary, assassinated in 1914.

During the First World War the Irish Volunteers seized parts of central Dublin in the Easter Rising. Members of this group went on to form the irish Republican Army who waged a guerilla war against the British in Ireland. This organisation also took their cause to England, in 1920 they attacked shipping and the docks in Liverpool, whilst also targetting police stations and police officers in Ireland.

After the First World War terrorism increased in the Middle East. Anti-Zionist terrorist groups used small arms and bombs to target the British occupiers and Jewish settlers. The plan here being to scare potential settlers off the idea of moving into Palestine and to make the British reconsider their support for the settlers.

In the 1930's several countries adopted what is termed 'State Terrorism'. Here the government uses instruments of terror to impose its will on the people. The Soviet Union and Nazi Germany both made use of these methods. This included use of Concentration Camps (Gulags in the USSR) and a heavy handed approach to dealing with law enforcement.

The Second World War saw many terrorist methods being deployed by armed forces and resistance movements. This made effective use of the terrorists ability to emerge from a civilian population, attack, then quickly return to their civilian cover.

Post World War Two there was a resurgence in Middle Eastern terrorism. TSeveral groups emerged which aimed to secure Palestine for the Arabs. Their methods included continued use of bombing military and government targets but saw new forms of terrorism being introduced. These groups:

  • hijacked aircraft with civilian passengers.
  • attacked the Isreali Olympic team, killing 11 athletes.
  • shot Isreali schoolchildren.

In 1988 a bomb exploded onboard Pan Am Flight 103, over the Scottish Town of Lockerbie. This bomb killed all on board and people on the ground.

There were further changes in the way that terrorists worked. An Armenian terrorist group entered an airport and opened fire on civilians waiting to board planes. The IRA planted large bombs in several British cities, killing many in Birmingham, Manchester and London. They also targetted Loyalist groups in Northern Ireland and returned to the terrorist tactic of assassination by killing Lord Louis Mountbatten and bombing the hotel in Brighton in which many leading politicians were staying for a conference.

Following the Lebanese Civil War a new method of terrorism was deployed by radical islamic groups in the area: the suicide bomber. 41 Suicide bombings killed 659 victims in the region during the 1980's. These attacks included the attack on the US Marine base in Beiruit along with attacks on the civilian population - a suicide bomber attacked a crowded bus, for example.

Terror organisations also began looking at targets that had a cultural significance. Visitors to the Temple at Luxor were shot in 1997 and in 1993 Al-Qaeda targetted what was widely perceived as being the most obvious symbol of American wealth and dominance: The World Trade Centre (a bomb was placed in the underground car park of the World Trade Centre).

In 1994 Japanese terrorists made use of biological weapons in Matsumoto.

In the 21st century:

Al-Qaeda was responsible for an attack on USS Cole, in which a suicide bomber killed 17 US personnel. Al-Qaeda then went on to launch the 9/11 attacks.

In October 2002, Chechnan rebels took 850 people hostage in a Moscow Theatre. Russian Special Forces stormed the building but 170 people were killed. In 2004, 1300 hostages were taken at a school in Beslan. Over 300 people died.

In 2008, Islamic Terrorists launched a series of attacks in the Indian City of Mumbai.

The main changes and continuities in terrorist tactics since 1900:

  • hostage taking has remained a constant tactic deployed by terrorist groups.
  • assassinations of political leaders has been used throughout the period.
  • bombing political and military targets has been used throughout.
  • suicide bombings have emerged as a strategy during the 20th century.
  • targetting civilians is more common now than it was in the past.
  • terrorism is more 'global' now than previously, due to developments in technology and communications.
  • terrorist groups now have access to biological weapons.
  • targets are now often chosen because of their symbolic significance.
  • the development of technology, particularly aviation technology, has led to new forms of terrorist attacks.







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