In the last decade the world has seen the rise of a new type of actor on the global stage: the transnational terrorist. Groups of them have engaged in numerous types of acts to gain headlines and increase public awareness of their causes, being willing to engage in the assassination of government leaders, sabotage of critical facilities, bombing of embassies and foreign corporations, assaults on military installations, skyjackings, kidnappings of diplomats and businessmen, and the take-over of embassies and holding of their staffs for ransom. How great is this problem? Is it worsening? Are there any trends we can discover? Can any nation consider itself safe from such attacks? Are certain nations being singled out? What groups are engaged in such activity? What is it they want? Why do they resort to these methods? And, finally, what does the future hold in store for the world?
Definitions of terrorism vary tremendously, both among governments and among individual researchers. Incidents considered terrorist by South Africa are merely the legitimate acts of freedom strugglers in the eyes of many Third World nations. Indeed, it has become so difficult to satisfy all the governments of the world, that in the United Nations one does not officially discuss “international terrorism” but rather Item 92: “Measures to Prevent International Terrorism which Endangers or Takes Innocent Human Lives or Jeopardizes Fundamental Freedoms, and Study of the Underlying Causes of those Forms of Terrorism and Acts of Violence which Lie in Misery, Frustration, Grievance and Despair, and which Cause Some People to Sacrifice Human Lives, Including Their Own, in an Attempt to Effect Radical Changes.” Such a view borders on accepting the motivations of the terrorists, and is also difficult to translate into action. For purposes of the present discussion, we can consider our research to be concerned with:
The use, or threat of use, of anxiety-inducing extranormal violence for political purposes by an individual or group, whether acting for or in opposition to established governmental authority, when such action is intended to influence the attitudes and behavior of a target group wider than the immediate victims and when, through the nationality or foreign ties of its perpetrators, its location, the nature of its institutional or human victims, or the mechanics of its resolution its ramifications transcend national boundaries.