Combating Terrorism

Combating Terrorism


Dr. Ali S. Awadh Asseri

(Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon)

     The involvement of non-state groups in terrorism that emerged in the wake of the Second World War is an open reality. The immediate focus of such activity shifted from Europe to that of the continent’s various colonies. Spread across the Middle East, Asia and Africa, nascent nationalist movements resisted European attempts to resume colonial business after the defeat of the Axis powers. What triggered these indigenous movements was the recent quashing of the myth of European invincibility. Quite often, these nationalist and anti-colonial groups conducted guerrilla warfare that differed from terrorism as it tended towards larges bodies of ‘irregulars’ operating along more military lines than their terrorist counterparts. They also did so in the open from a defined geographical area over which they held sway. Such was the case in China and Indochina where such forces conducted insurgencies against the Kuomintanq regime and the French colonial government respectively. Such campaigns were also fought in the rural and the urban areas by terrorist or guerrilla groups as against the French in Algeria.[1] 

     More such struggles were launched against the occupiers as in Kenya, Malaysia, Cyprus and Palestine that, by some critics, are construed as ‘terrorist’. These groups quickly learned to exploit the burgeoning globalization of the world’s media. As Hoffman puts it, “They were the first to recognize the publicity value inherent in terrorism and to choreograph their violence for an audience far beyond the immediate geographical locations of their respective struggles.’[2] In the 1960s and 1970s, the number of these groups that may be described as ‘terrorist’ swelled to include not only nationalists, but those motivated by ethnic and ideological considerations. The former included groups such as the Basque ETA and the Provisional Irish Liberation Army while the latter comprised organizations such as the Red Army Faction and the Italian Red Brigades.[3]

     Following the Second World War, Latin America saw the emergence of a number of guerrilla organizations, from the Shining Path in Peru to FARC in Colombia, who were driven by communist-socialist revolutionary causes and, as part of their guerrilla campaign, committed acts of terrorism. The successful communist revolution in Cuba had encouraged revolutionary guerrilla campaigns across the region. However, with the death of the charismatic guerrilla leader Che Guevara in 1967, the revolutionary guerrilla campaign in Latin America died down in the 1970s. During the 1980s, revolutionary and ethno-nationalist motives of non-state terrorism gave way to terrorism in the name of religion. The 1979 Iranian revolution, the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan and the fall of the Soviet communist ideology are usually mentioned as the main reasons why religious terrorism came to dominate the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first century.


[1] Weinberg, op. cit., pp. 29-30.

[2] Ibid., p. 65.

[3] Ibid., pp. 34-35