Global Jihad and the Tactic of Terror Abduction: A Comprehensive Review of Islamic Terrorist Organizations

Global Jihad and the Tactic of Terror Abduction: A Comprehensive Review of Islamic Terrorist Organizations

by Shaul Shay


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In recent decades, the taking of hostages has proven to be a particularly effective tactic for Islamic terrorist organizations worldwide, including al Qaeda. The 'global jihad' movement regards citizens of foreign (mainly western) countries as prime targets for abduction, although in fact local residents have constituted the majority of kidnapping victims. This book analyzes Islamic terror abductions over the last 30 years in the Middle East (Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia), Asia (Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and the Philippines), Africa (the Maghreb, the Sahel regions, and Somalia), and in Russia as a part of the Russian-Chechen conflict. Discussion also focuses on the abduction by Hizballah of Israeli soldiers, the 'Second Lebanon War' of 2006, the Mumbai terror attack (2008), the Chechen hostage crisis in Moscow and Beslan (2002 and 2004), the kidnapping of employees of the Algerian In Amenas gas facility by 'al Qaeda of the Maghreb' in January 2013 and the Nairobi "Westgate Mall" hostage crisis in September 2013. The role of Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism, and its patronage of terror organizations that utilize the tactic of abduction to promote Iranian interests in Lebanon and Iraq, is highlighted throughout. Discussion focuses on the challenges faced by countries whose citizens have been abducted by Islamic terror organizations and their reactions to these challenges, and provides theoretical classifications of the phenomenon of terrorism in general and terror abduction in particular.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781845196974
Publisher: Sussex Academic Press
Publication date: 01/01/2015
Edition description: None
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Shaul Shay is a senior research fellow at the International Policy Institute for Counterterrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel, and served as the deputy head of the Israeli National Security Council. He is the author of The Axis of Evil: Iran, Hizballah, and the Palestinian Terror; Islamic Terror and the Balkans; Islamic Terror Abductions in the Middle East; The Shahids: Islam and Suicide Attacks; and Somalia between Jihad and Restoration.

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Global Jihad and the Tactic of Terror Abduction

A Comprehensive Review of Islamic Terrorist Organizations

By Shaul Shay

Sussex Academic Press

Copyright © 2014 Shaul Shay
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-84519-611-0


Terror and Abductions

Theoretical Background

Defining Terror

The increasing intensity of international terror since the 1970s and the western democracies' need to understand and contend with this phenomenon led to the development of a research discipline that examines terror from legal, psychological, sociological, historical, and other aspects.

The attacks on the United States of America (US) on 11 September 2001 (9/11) proved a watershed in the international community's approach to the global terror phenomenon, which was transformed overnight from a marginal nuisance to a central threat to world peace. President George W. Bush's "global war against terror", declared shortly after 9/11, defined the struggle against terrorists, terror organizations, and states that support terror as the top priority for the US and the coalition of countries that it heads. The 9/11 attacks exposed the vulnerability of the western world and found it unprepared to deal with the challenges posed by an unrestrained post-modern terrorism that knows no geographical limitations.

The phenomenon of modern terrorism is complex and problematic, and particularly difficult to define. This difficulty stems not from an inability to define terror, but rather that it appears impossible to arrive at a universally acceptable definition.

Various approaches have been adopted to distinguish between definitions, with varying degrees of success. A major differentiation exists between normative and analytical definitions. The normative school bases its definitions on political values, from which it derives standards to judge political actions, and characterizes terrorism in terms of the political context in which it is created; therefore, it defines terror as "unjustified violence against a democratic country that permits effective forms of non-violent resistance". Accordingly, a black man who detonated a bomb in a police station in South Africa during the apartheid period is not to be considered a terrorist, while a member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) who attacked a British military base is included in the terrorist category. This example highlights the limitations of normative definitions that examine the phenomenon from a subjective point of view, according to which an ally or friend is defined in positive terms (a freedom fighter) while an opponent is defined negatively (a terrorist). Thus the normative definition makes it difficult to define the term "terror" in an unequivocal and universal manner.

Nevertheless, the importance and benefit of the normative definition lies in the standards used to judge the legitimacy of political violence. A key aspect of a state's handling of terrorism is legitimization of its own use of violence and legal nullification of the terrorist's violent challenge. To a great extent, the objective of terrorism is to win legitimacy in the eyes of the population (or part of it) and to negate the legitimacy of the ruling government. Terrorism poses a challenge to a government's right to monopolize power in society and undermines its ability to maintain law and order.

Other issues that stem from the normative approach address the moral aspects of terror. Martha Crenshaw argues that terrorism can best be judged by a moral examination of its consequences alongside a moral examination of its means. Regarding the consequences of terror activity, the criterion is whether the activity aims to establish a just, liberated, democratic government or serves the narrow and deplorable goal of establishing an authoritarian regime that will grant special privileges to a defined group and cause the diminishment of freedom vis-à-vis others. Discussion of the morality of means leads to examination of the terrorists' methods and the identities of terror victims in particular. Crenshaw defines two main groups of victims: The first group includes individuals that are vulnerable to terror due to the roles they fulfill within the state apparatus, and as a result are identified (to a certain extent) with the "unjust" policy that the terrorists are fighting. The second group includes citizens who do not play an official role in state operations and citizens of other countries who have no connection with, or direct influence upon, the policy of a "foreign" government. The "transgression" of these people (according to the terrorists) is that they obey the laws of an "unjust" government, thus becoming accomplices to its deeds.

The view of victims of terror constitutes another example of the problematic aspects of normative definitions: the observer's starting point is determined by that individual's moral approach to the case; thus it would appear impossible to develop objective moral judgment vis-à-vis the use of terror in various political circumstances. At the very most, one might state that the definition of a deed as an "act of terror" does not in itself constitute a moral or ethical determination regarding its substance.

While the normative school of thought strives to address terror by examining its ethics, the analytical school aims to define the phenomenon by constructing a neutral, theoretical definition general enough to cover the wide variety of terror attack types.

One of the most comprehensive analytical studies of this subject was conducted by Alex Schmid and Albert Jongman. Their research assumed that, despite disagreement on the definition of terror, a common denominator existed in customary views of terror, and that such commonality could be clear enough to model a language for researchers investigating terrorism. Schmid and Jongman compiled 109 different definitions of terror and conducted a "content analysis" to highlight identical components among them. Their findings indicated the existence of twenty-five similar components: the most prominent of these being the use of violence or force (appearing in 83.5 percent of the definitions), a political goal (in 95 percent), spreading fear (51 percent), threats or psychological pressure (47 percent), addressing differences between the terror victims (37.5 percent), and methodical or planned activity (32 percent).

Schmid and Jongman's compilation of parameters does not in itself suffice to provide an exact definition of the phenomenon of terror, but their list indicated terrorism's main components from which they attempted to construct a definition of terror. The conclusion of their study found that terrorism is a method of assault in which coincidental or symbolic victims serve as instrumental targets for violence, selected according to group characteristics that constitute the terrorists' choice of victims. Previous usage of violence, or a proven threat to use violence, also victimizes other individuals in the target group, due to the state of "chronic fear" in which they are forced to subsist. This indirect method of attack aims to motivate victims to act in accordance with the terrorists' wishes or to induce secondary targets to change their behaviors to accord with the terrorists' goals. Schmid and Jongman's comprehensive study contributed much to understanding terror and mapped the various components of different definitions, but was unable to produce a universal definition of the phenomenon of terror.

In his book, The Labyrinth of Countering Terror, Boaz Ganor offers the following definition of terror: "Terror is a type of violent struggle in whose framework intentional use is made of violence towards civilians in order to achieve political (national, social-economic, ideological, religious, and other) goals."

Ganor's three-tier definition is based on the following:

The nature of the activity is a type of violent struggle. According to this definition, any activity that does not involve violence. Demonstrations, protests, and strikes will not be defined as terror.

The goal at the basis of terror is always a political one. From replacing a government by altering a regime or replacing powerful incumbents to revising economic, social, or other policies, terror is designed to achieve aims in the political arena. In the absence of a political goal, an action will not be defined as terror. Violent activity against civilians without a political agenda can only be considered criminal wrongdoing or an act of madness – it is unconnected to terror. The motive behind the political goal is irrelevant to the definition of terror, and can be ideological, religious, national, social, or economic.

The target of terror is civilians. From this aspect, terror is to be differentiated from political violence such as guerrilla warfare or popular uprising. The proposed definition emphasizes that terror is not the result of a coincidental attack against civilians who happen to be present in a volatile political arena: it is primarily targeted against civilians. Terrorism exploits the relative ease of striking the vulnerable civilian "underbelly" of society – and profits from the media exposure that comes in its wake.

The proposed definition of terror distinguishes between terror and guerilla warfare based on the perpetrators' target. Its most significant distinction is that terror necessitates "intentional use of violence against civilians in order to achieve political goals", while guerilla warfare consists of "a violent struggle in the framework of which use is made of violence targeted against military targets in order to achieve political goals."

The actual goals that terror organizations strive to achieve are irrelevant to the proposed definition of terror (as long as a political goal exists). Both the terrorist and the guerilla fighter may aspire to achieve identical results, but each chooses a different method to realize them. Thus a given organization may simultaneously be a terror organization (if its activities are intended to harm civilians) and a national liberation movement (if its goal is national liberation). The proposed definition of terror hopes to provide means to analyze specific incidents and assist in determining whether events are of a terrorist, or guerrilla, nature. Studies of terror's "by-products" such as international and state-supported terrorism exemplify the failure to find a universal definition for the phenomenon of terror.

In the 1970s, two American research institutes attempted to define international terror. The first study, by the RAND Corporation, defined international terror as "a single incident, or a series of incidents, that contravene prevalent law, diplomatic agreements, and the laws of war. The goal of international terror is to draw international attention to the existence of the problem being faced by the terrorists, and to stimulate fear. The aim of terror is to influence or effect a change according to the desires of its perpetrators, and the direct victim of terror is not necessarily identical to the entity that the terrorist factor is attempting to influence." In the second study, researchers at the ITERATE project arrived at a different definition of international terrorism: "Use of, or a threat to use, violence for political purposes by an individual, or a group, acting in favor of, or against, an existing regime. The action is meant to influence a wider target audience than the attack's direct victims, and the victims, perpetrators, and their links know no boundaries."

The various forms of state involvement in terror have been bound together within concepts of terrorist states and state-sponsored terrorism, but these terms over-generalize the varying levels of state involvement in terror. A more focused distinction is required to classify involvement of states in terror according to the following categories:

States supporting terrorism. States that provide terror organizations with financial, ideological, military, or operational aid.

States directing terrorism. States that initiate, direct, or perpetrate terror activities through sponsored organizations while refraining from direct involvement of their government entities in terror actions.

States perpetrating terrorism. States that perpetrate terror through their intelligence and security agencies.

Paul Wilkinson indicates three conditions under which political terror becomes international terror:

• When terror is directed against civilians or foreign targets.

• When terror is perpetrated by a government or an organization connected to more than one state.

• When terror is intended to affect the policy of another foreign state.

According to the above definition, when state-sponsored terror is instigated against one of the targets specified above, such action constitutes a specific case of international terror. Indeed, Wilkinson defines state-supported terror as "the direct or indirect involvement of a government, through formal or informal groups, in the generating of psychological and physical violence against political targets or another state in order to achieve desired tactical and strategic goals".

State-supported terror is characterized by an ambivalent attitude towards international law and order. States that utilize terror are willing to deviate from moral norms and international "rules of the game" in order to strike at their adversary, and hide their involvement to prevent retaliation by the victim.

Cooperation between a state and a terror organization is generally based on religious, ideological, or political solidarity, or on the basis of shared interests. The extent of the patron state's control over the terror organization varies according to the basis of cooperation and the degree that the sponsored organization depends upon its patron. A state's involvement in terror may be direct or indirect, and may be expressed in various levels of moral, political, economic, and operational aid or cooperation. In the majority of cases, links between the patron state and the terror organization are essentially clandestine.

Nationals of other countries are often recruited by a state to make it easier to deny involvement when terror activity is exposed, thus helping to prevent censure and international sanctions. Terror provides an alternative to the use of overt military force to achieve a state's objectives; while a state may support an act of terror against another state with which it is in conflict, terror recruitment may also be applied in situations where countries are not in a declared state of war. Terror is effective in achieving goals unlikely to be attained through direct military confrontation, such as undermining a state's political stability or damaging its diplomatic or economic ties with other countries.

A completely different approach is offered by Edward Luttwak, who maintains that "terror is inevitably self-defeating":

"When trying to understand terror, the logic behind the strategy is completely futile. Unlike guerrilla warfare, a conventional war, a revolution, a coup – or any other use of force aimed at achieving a goal – terror is nothing but a violent form of self-expression or self-definition, a sort of graffiti etched in mutilation and blood, as rational as is propaganda through action. It may possibly provide emotional satisfaction to those bound to hatred; it can perhaps assuage those who seek vengeance or maybe even supply sensual pleasure to sadists, but it cannot achieve a victory of any kind: not the enemy's surrender, nor his physical conquest or even concessions wrung from him. On the contrary, terror is destined to strike at the target, which terrorists claim to be their goal. The only difference is the extent of the damage, from a severely flawed public image to utter eradication. ... When the weak assault those who are strong, it is natural for them to avoid complicated targets, particularly military forces and their bases. They attack civilians and civilian targets indiscriminately...."


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Table of Contents

Preface xii

1 Terror and Abductions - Theoretical Background 1

Defining Terror 1

Defining Abduction 7

The Goals of Abduction 9

The Modus Operandi 10

The Timing of Abduction 12

Abduction: An Act of War or a Criminal Act? 15

The Dilemma of Hostages, POWs, and Prisoners 17

State Intervention in Abductions 17

2 Al Qaeda and Terror Abductions 21

Al Qaeda and Abduction: The Financial Aspects 21

Al Qaeda Abduction Manual 22

Reasons for detaining one or more enemy individuals 22

Requirements needed to form a kidnapping group 23

Types of kidnapping 23

Stages of public abduction 24

Security measures for public abduction 26

Stages of secret kidnapping 26

Security measures for secret kidnapping 27

How to deal with hostages in both kidnapping types 27

Al Qaeda and the Use of Terror Abduction (2003-12) 28

Summary 31

3 Iran and Terror Abductions 33

Iran's Use of Terror 33

The Iranian Terror System 37

The Islamic Revolution in Iran 38

The Crisis at the American Embassy in Tehran 38

The attack on the embassy (November 1979) 39

Negotiations 40

The rescue (Operation Eagle Claw) 40

The end of the crisis 41

Iranian Involvement in Terror Abductions in Iraq 42

The abduction of five Britons in Baghdad (May 2007) 44

Iranian capture of three British ships and crews (June 2004) 46

Iranian capture of two British ships and sailors (March 2007) 47

Iran's abduction of three American hikers (July 2010) 48

Summary 53

4 Hizballah and Terror Abductions in Lebanon 58

Hizballah Abductions Against Israel 58

The abduction of two IDF soldiers in Lebanon (February 1986) 59

The Ron Arad affair (October 1986) 60

"Operation Poplar's Whistle" (the Israeli SEALs' debacle) (September 1997) 62

The abduction of three IDF soldiers from Mount Dov (October 2000) 64

Hizballah abduction attempt at Rajar (November 2005) 65

The abduction of two IDF soldiers: The second Lebanon war (July 2006) 67

The Winograd Commission (April 2007) 70

Israel's Efforts to Obtain the Release of IDF Soldiers Held by Hizballah 71

The abduction of Sheikh Abd al Karim Obeid (July 1989) 72

Iranian and Hizballah attempts to release Sheikh Obeid 74

The abduction of Mustafa Dirani (May 1994) 76

The aftermath 76

Reciprocal Links Between Hamas and Hizballah Abductions 77

Israeli Policy Regarding POWs and Hostages 77

The Abduction of Foreign Nationals in Lebanon (1984-91) 80

Imad Muraniya and the attack mechanism 83

The United States 85

The abduction of William Buckley (March 1984) 86

The "Irangate" affair (September 1985) 86

The hijack to Lebanon of TWA flight 847 (June 1986) 89

The abduction of Colonel William Higgins (February 1988) 90

International response 91

The end of the western hostages' affair in Lebanon 95

Links between foreign hostage abductions and Israel 96

Summary 98

5 Terror Abductions in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India 102

Abductions in Afghanistan 102

Abduction of foreigners 103

The abduction of twenty-three South Korean missionaries (July 2007) 104

The first American soldier abducted in Afghanistan (June 2009) 105

The abduction of two American soldiers (July 2010) 108

Abductions in 2010 110

French hostages in Afghanistan 110

Taliban prisoners escape from Afghan jails 112

Taliban abductions 113

Armed attacks on Afghan jails 113

Summary 114

Abductions in Pakistan 114

The abduction of Tariq Azizuddin, Pakistani ambassador to Afghanistan (February 2008) 114

The abduction of John Solecki, head of Balochistan UNHCR (February 2009 115

The abduction and murder of Daniel Pearl (January 2002) 115

The Pakistani Taliban abduct a Swiss couple (July 2011) 117

The Aafia Siddiqui affair (December 2002) 119

An American aid worker abducted in Pakistan (August 2011) 123

Summary 125

India and the Islamic Terror Threat 126

The abduction of Rubaiya Sayeed (December 1989) 128

The hijack of Indian Airlines flight 814 (December 1999) 128

The Mumbai terror attacks (November 2008) 129

6 Terror Abductions and Decapitations in Iraq 142

Fallujah as a Hostage Center 145

The Coalitions' Approach to the Hostage Issue in Iraq 146

The Abduction of US Soldiers in Iraq 148

Plots to Kidnap US Soldiers in Iraq 149

Abduction and Massacre in a Baghdad Catholic Church (October 2010) 150

The rescue operation 150

An al Qaeda-affiliated group takes responsibility 150

Condemnation 151

New threats to the Iraqi and Egyptian Coptic churches 151

Summary 152

Abductions, Decapitations, and the Media 153

The Tradition of Decapitation in Islam 154

Abduction and Decapitation in Iraq from the Religious Aspect 155

7 Terror Abductions in Saudi Arabia 162

The Siege of the Grand Mosque in Mecca 162

Juhayman ibn Muhammad ibn Sayf al Otaibi 162

Juhayman and the Mahdi 163

The takeover of the Grand Mosque (November 1979) 164

The siege 164

The Shiite rebellion in east Saudi Arabia 166

The American response 167

The American embassy crisis in Pakistan (November 1979) 167

The Iranian response 168

The response from the Muslim world 168

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (December 1979) 168

The assassination of Anwar Sadat (October 1981) 169

The assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II (May 1981) 169

Juhayman's movement and al Qaeda in Iraq and Jordan 169

The Abduction and Murder of Paul Marshall Johnson (June 2004) 170

The response of Saudi Arabia 171

The al Khobar Massacre (May 2004) 171

The al Khobar petroleum center 172

The Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation building 172

The Oasis-3 compound 172

The rescue operation 173

Saudi Arabian Security Forces Free Two German Girls Kidnapped in Yemen (May 2010) 173

Al Qaeda in Yemen Urge Kidnappings of Saudi Royals and Christians (June 2010) 174

The US embassy in Saudi Arabia issues a kidnapping warning to its citizens 174

A Saudi Diplomat Kidnapped in Yemen (March 2012) 175

8 Terror Abductions in Yemen 179

Yemen and Islamic Terror 179

The Abduction of Foreign Residents in Yemen 181

The Arrest of the "British" Terror Network in Yemen (December 1998) 182

The Abduction of Foreign Tourists (December 1998) 182

Three French Aid Workers Abducted in Yemen (July 2011) 185

The French response 186

The release 186

Summary 186

Yemen and the "Arab Spring" 187

9 The "Arab Spring" and Terror Abductions in Syria and Lebanon 191

The Abduction of Foreign Nationals in Syria 191

The abduction and release of Iranian pilgrims (August 2012) 192

The abduction of two Russians and an Italian (December 2012) 193

The abduction of a Ukrainian journalist (October 2012) 193

The abduction and release of UN peacekeepers (March 2013) 194

The abduction and release of US journalists (December 2012) 195

Abductions and Beheadings in Syria 195

The "Spillover" of Terror Abductions from Syria to Lebanon 196

The abduction of eleven Lebanese pilgrims (May 2012) 197

The abduction of Hassan Salim al Miqdad (August 2012) 197

The abduction of twenty Syrians in Lebanon (August 2012) 198

Summary 198

10 Terror Abductions in the Philippines 201

The Abu Sayyaf Terror Organization 201

US Involvement in Counter-terror Operations in the Philippines 203

Examples of ASG Abductions 204

The Sipadan kidnapping (May 2000) 204

The abduction and release of American Jeffrey Schilling (August 2000) 205

The Dos Palmas abductions (May 2001) 205

The abduction of three aid workers (January 2009) 206

The abduction of Australian Warren Richard Rodwell (December 2012) 207

The abduction of Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani (June 2012) 208

List of ASG Terror Abductions 209

11 Al Qaeda and Terror Abductions in the Maghreb 214

GSPC and AQIM Abductions (2000-2008) 215

The abductions of 2009 217

The abductions of 2010-11 219

The In-Amenas Hostage Crisis in Algeria (January 2013) 222

The target: In-Amenas gas field 223

The militants: The "Masked Brigade" 223

Mokhtar Belmokhtar 224

The Algerian response 225

The response of the United States 225

France 226

United Kingdom 226

Conclusions 227

Criminal and Terrorist Cooperation in Abductions 228

Summary 229

Recommendations 231

12 Terror Abductions in the Horn of Africa 235

Terror Abductions in somalia 235

French security advisors abducted in Somalia (July 2009) 235

The Abduction of Foreign Nationals from Kenya 239

British woman abducted in Kenya (September 2011) 239

The abduction of a British couple from their yacht (October 2009) 242

Disabled French woman abducted in Kenya (October 2011) 243

The abduction of two Spanish aid workers (October 2011) 245

The Kenyan armed forces offensive into Somalia (October 2011) 246

Summary 246

Piracy and Terror in the Gulf of Aden 247

Piracy in the Gulf of Aden 247

Al Qaeda and the maritime jihad 248

Counter-piracy and counter-terrorism 250

Conclusions 250

13 Islamic Terror Abductions in the Russia-Chechnya Conflict 254

Background 254

The Budyonnovsk Hospital Hostage Crisis (June 1995) 257

The hostage crisis 258

Resolution of the crisis 258

Casulties 259

Aftermath 259

The Kizlyar-Pervomayskoye Hostage Crisis (January 1996) 259

The Kizlyar airbase raid 260

The Chechen terrorists' breakout 261

The hijack of a Turkish ferry 261

Casualties 261

The Moscow Theater Hostage Crisis (October 2002) 262

The rescue operation 262

Summary 263

The Beslan School Hostage Crisis (September 2004) 264

Day one 264

The beginning of the siege 265

Day two 266

Day three 267

The assault by Russian forces 268

Aftermath 269

The identity of the hostage-takers, motives, and responsibility 269

The hostage-takers 271

The captured terrorist's interrogation and trial 271

Sovier Union and Russian Counter-abduction Doctrine 272

14 Summary and conclusions 274

Points of emphasis and Lessons to be Drawn 274

Epilogue 276

Select bibliography 285

Index 287

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