Female Bombers Are Nothing New

09.30.2005 | Faculty, InternationalThe author of the soon-to-be released From Black September to Sept. 11, a complete history of Middle East terrorism, traces the use of women in terror operations back to the late 1960s, and says it could happen in the United States.

"Al-Qaida and groups affiliated with or inspired by al-Qaida are constantly searching for our vulnerabilities," said Mark Ensalaco, director of the University of Dayton's international studies program. "If this becomes a trend, it means the culture of death in Iraq is spreading rather than diminishing."

Ensalaco is referring to the first known suicide attack by a woman in Iraq's insurgency that took place Sept. 28.

Ensalaco said one would expect that, given the subordinate status of women in fundamentalist Islam, they would not be encouraged to take part in jihad. In the past few years, that has changed somewhat with the involvement of women in suicide bombings organized by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, according to Ensalaco.

"We know from Hezbollah and Israel that women submissively accept that their husbands and sons put martyrdom over protecting the family," said Ensalaco, who has been quoted or interviewed about terrorism by CNN, the Associated Press and Reuters, among others. "Some women rejoice in their husbands' and sons' martyrdom. The next step may be for women to say they desire martyrdom, too."

According to Ensalaco, a Palestinian woman, Leila Khaled, blew up a TWA plane in Damascus, Syria, in August 1969. She also participated in "Skyjack Sunday," during which the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine simultaneously hijacked four New York City-bound jets and blew them up on Sept. 11, 1970.

The Popular Front also used Palestinian and German women in hijackings in 1972, 1976 and 1977. German women also participated in the 1975 takeover of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries conference in Vienna.

For interviews, contact Shawn Robinson at (937) 229-3391.