Peering into the Abyss: Understanding and Combating NBC Terrorism

  • Ian M. Cuthbertson


The attacks on 11 September 2001 against New York and Washington and in Madrid on 3 March 2004, coupled with a wide range of other terrorist attacks, in locations ranging from Turkey to Bali, have all served to highlight a new and unambiguous trend in the use of political violence, one that now makes terrorism a much greater danger than the world has traditionally had to cope with from ethno-nationalistic or ideologically motivated terrorist groups. In contrast to earlier terrorist organizations, radical Islamic fundamentalist groups seek not only to inspire terror in the target population, but also have the overweening ambition of totally undermining the key pillars of the West’s political, social, economic, infrastructural and moral make-up. By attacking carefully selected targets, exemplified by the assault on the office workers in the World Trade Center, tourists in Bali and rail commuters in Madrid, the terrorists are seeking to inflict previously unthinkable levels of destruction and disruption. They want to use the power of the carnage itself to convey their message, rather than depending on media coverage and the spin doctoring by spokespersons and pundits that inevitably accompanies such attacks. The level of harm inflicted is in and of itself intended to send their uncompromising message of total war to the audience, both among the targeted population and to their own supporters. The aim is to demonstrate that the terrorist’s power to inflict harm is virtually limitless. And in pursuit of the terrorist’s objectives, the use of weapons of mass destruction to attack a major urban target must be regarded as a logical and to be expected escalation in the terrorist’s arsenal of outrages.


Nuclear Weapon Terrorist Attack Terrorist Group Mass Destruction Chemical Weapon 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ian M. Cuthbertson

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