Inside the mind of a suicide bomber

Posted By: Devaki
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London, July 21 (ANI): Ariel Merari is a psychologist who has spoken to suicide bombers and those who organise their attacks, and found they are very different kinds of people.

According to Merari, these Palestinian bombers have certain personality characteristics that make them more likely to be recruited to or to volunteer for suicide-bombing missions.

He elaborates in an interview, reported by New Scientist.

It has been thought that suicide terrorists are not psychologically different from other terrorists, but your latest research on Palestinian would-be bombers who failed to blow themselves up suggests otherwise. What did you find?

They had one of two personality types. Two-thirds were dependent-avoidant: such people find it hard to say no to authority figures and are more likely to cooperate to carry out tasks against their own judgement. They are also greatly influenced by public opinion.

The rest were impulsive and emotionally unstable - likely to volunteer, but in many cases their enthusiasm will not last long enough for them to see it through.

Were they militantly ideological?

None were any more militant than the average Palestinian. Ideological motivation was not what made them suicide bombers. Two-thirds hesitated somewhere along the line, though this was caused by fear of death and worry about their families.

How are they able to see the operation through to the end?

Some of them apparently enter a psychological state known as dissociation, in which they shut themselves off to disturbing thoughts.

You also interviewed 14 organisers of suicide attacks, all of them senior commanders of Palestinian militant groups. How does their psychology compare?

Their psychology is very different. They are not dependent - they are manipulative.

They are much more intelligent than the bombers and are also older.

Some had university education. They were not psychopathic. They were very pragmatic, they believed they were doing it for their nation and that it was the right thing to do.

How did you feel talking to them?

The would-be bombers looked like pitiable young boys. In interviews they were usually kind and polite. I saw them as people who were manipulated.

With the organisers it was different. I knew these were the people who sent youngsters to kill innocent civilians, though I could still relate to them as human beings. (ANI)

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