Defense Update - News Analysis by David Eshel

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

The Threat of Post Modern Terrorism
Terrorism - Part II

Marking the second anniversary of the 9/11 bombings, the Israel based, International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT),opened its 3rd conference, last September, its largest event in its seven years of existance, gathering nearly two hundred leading international professional experts and academic scholars on terrorism and counter-terrorism in Herzliya, Israel. This year's topic was termed "Post-Modern Terrorism- Trends, Scenarios and Future Threats" by the organisers.

At the opening ceremony, Dr Boaz Ganor, ICT executive director defined this term: " The September 11 attacks signified the beginning of the shift from modern to post-modern terror. While modern terrorism is charcterised by executing attacks, small and large, in order to generate fear and dread in the target audience and to channel this fear to achieve various political goals, post-modern terrorism, in its lesser manifestations, aims to inflict enormous damage( killing and maiming tens thousands) through direct or indirect use of unconventional materials, such as chemical, biological and radiological and even nuclear". In his words, the extent of damage in 9/11 demonstrated the audacity of their perpetrators and their determination to start a new era of global terrorism.

Ganor noted five types of non-conventional terrorism which could be perpetrated in the not to distant future: chemical, biological, radiological ( 'dirty bombs'), nuclear and cyber terrorism ( information warfare). Sofar, the world has witnessed only a fraction of non-conventional warfare by nondescript terror groups, such as the limited, but panic spreading 'anthrax letter' campaign in the US, as well as the use of Sarin gas in the Tokyo subway and a few botched attempts elsewhere ( like rat poison mixed with explosive suicide devices in Israel, or ricin in the UK.)

According to Ganor 'The equation in terrorism always presents capability with motivation'. If it is a matter of chemical weapon grade substance capability, this exists and terrorists use of it remains only their determination to use it.

In post modern terrorism, Dr Ganor adds, the Islamic radical terrorist organisations, led by al Qaeda's Bin Laden, are guided through shrewd manipulations by Islamic scholars, interpreting the holy scriptures toward their political aims. In May 2003 the Saudi Sheikh Nasser Ben Hamed El Fahd, known as one of the leading spiritual leaders and a close associate of Bin Laden, ruled a fatwah ( religious law) 'granting religious legitimacy' to the use of non-conventional weapons to perpetrate mass killings against western targets'. His fiery preachings were widely distributed throughout the world over the Islamic internet websites.

(a translated version of the speech can be seen at under July 5, 2003 "Saudi cleric issues fatwah on the use of weapons of mass destruction" by Col Yoni Fighel and Moshe Marzouk).

Dr. Ganor mentions some parameters, which could make indiscriminate use of non-conventional weapons in terror attacks: religious ideology spurred by radical spiritual leadership, so-called 'end-of-the world anarchist groups and isolationists factions not concerned with the horrendous consequences of their actions.

Regarding international terrorism capabilities in the aftermath of the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns, Ganor mentions an enhanced threat through hidden cells of Islamic fundamentalist activists, so-called 'Afghan Alumni' veterans spread out all over world and belonging to dozens of little known organisations, each acting separately, along the spiritual (and sometimes operational) guidelines of al Qaeda.

While the former 'state sponsors' of terrorism seem to have deteriorated by the US led actions, there remain sufficient secret channels intact, for indirect funding and target information to ruthless operating cells, determined to act.