In A Nutshell
It seems hardly a day goes by that we don’t hear about a suicide bombing in the Middle East. Hundreds are killed each year by Islamic fundamentalists, many of them innocent civilians. But the problem could be far worse; luckily, many suicide bombers are amazingly unsuccessful at their job—only 50 percent of Taliban suicide bombings are successful.
The Whole Bushel
There is something particularly terrifying about fighting an enemy that is not afraid to die. Such was the philosophy behind the Japanese kamikaze pilots of World War II and the modern proliferation of suicide bombers in the Middle East. Prior to the early 1980s, the practice was comparatively rare, but attacks by the Hezbollah during the Lebanese Civil War brought it into ugly focus. Other groups that have used suicide bombers include the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka, Palestinian militants like Hamas, and Chechen separatists.
Fortunately for those who would be victimized by such extremists, bombing is dangerous and sophisticated work, requiring extensive training. Many amateurs who attempt it succeed in doing little more than killing themselves (only about 50 percent of suicide bombings are successful), and many accidents occur.
In May 2013, a Taliban member died when his explosive vest went off prematurely, likely saving a dozen or more lives. Even more ridiculous, sources at the United Nations claim that in July 2009, six bombers in Paktika, Afghanistan died when they attempted a group hug before deploying to kill innocents. Later on that year, a group of Talibs died while transporting an IED (improvised explosive device) in the province of Balkh.
On Christmas Day in 2009, Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to blow up a transatlantic flight from Amsterdam to Detroit with a bomb in his underwear (thus earning himself a litany of embarrassing nicknames). Although Umar’s father is one of the richest men in Africa and he could have lived a life of privilege, he fell in with al-Qaeda during his world travels. As the flight approached Detroit, Umar went into the bathroom for a long time, then emerged with a blanket draped over his legs. A few minutes later, other passengers smelled smoke and found Umar with his pants on fire. He was subdued, his legs covered in burns from the failed detonation.