Tag Archives: Chechen terrorists

The Difficulty of Predicting ISIS and al Qaeda “Stay and Act in Place” Attacks


In February of 2015 Omar el-Hussein was hunted for thirteen hours and ultimately shot dead by Danish police after killing fifty-five year old documentary filmmaker Finn Noergaard at a free speech event and a thirty-seven year old Jewish guard, Dan Uzan at a synagogue in Copenhagen. El-Hussein, the gunman was known to Danish police. He had a criminal history that included violence and weapons offenses. In fact he had only been released from prison fourteen days previously.

It appears now that he planned his event (which was a simpler copycat of the Charlie Hebdo shootings) in the days after his release, Googling “Krudttonden” the place of the first attack only one to two days before his attack. This was where Lars Vilks the infamous artist who had drawn the Prophet and others were participating in an event organized by Vilks entitled Art, Blasphemy and Freedom of Expression. El-Hussein’s brother allegedly bought a bullet-proof vest for him as well during those days. After the first shooting, el-Hussein escaped in a taxi and hid out in an Internet café where he then began an Internet search for the synagogue where he carried out his second attack.

The speed by which today’s terrorists radicalize into extremist mindsets and take lethal action is mind-boggling and presents a nightmare for today’s security officials. The police chief in Denmark was fired in May, only months after the shootings—after being held responsible for not anticipating such action.

Sadly though, this type of attack is likely to continue in all Western countries and is very hard to predict. Thousands of disgruntled individuals log on to the Internet to find excuses to vent their anger. Youth in particular are searching for identity, purpose, significance and if they are angry about injustices—perceived or real—they gravitate to justifications and equipping to channel and express their rage.

Groups like ISIS and al Qaeda are waiting and willing to provide for such individuals the other three elements of the four making up the lethal cocktail of terrorism that I identified in my four hundred interviews of terrorists and their family members and close associates (reported upon in Talking to Terrorists). These four elements are: 1) a group; 2) it’s ideology that wrongly tries to justify striking out at civilians in violence; 3) social support for joining and believing the ideology and this all combines with 4) the person’s own individual motivations and vulnerabilities.

El-Hussein had just been released from prison and had a violent background and access to weapons. He is also identified as being the son of Palestinian refugee parents, and may have already been exposed to violent ideologies promoting so-called “martyrdom” missions. These should have been red flags to police and if authorities were also aware of his radicalization–which there appeared to be clues too as well, these are all flags to his possibility of enacting terrorism.

Prison is a place where folks can easily be radicalized. Prisoners are generally bored and angered at being locked up, are surrounded by criminal thinkers and may be exposed to extremist thinkers and their ideologies. Many are vulnerable, long for belonging and may gravitate easily to a group that promises them some kind of future—even if it’s only in the afterlife—and even more so if it offers protection in the here and now.  A lot of extremist groups that work in prisons protect one another and if they are Muslim, pray regularly together, so there is a deep sense of belonging, sense of purpose and protection that may have been missing in childhood and adulthood.

We know now that terrorists are acting with less and less lead-time these days. Part of that is because troubled and lost people are getting radicalized over the Internet with the so-called “university of jihad” as my now deceased friend Reuven Paz liked to call it.  Over the Internet, the potential terrorists, i.e. person with vulnerabilities and motivations to strike out in hate can find all they need to radicalize, equip themselves, and strike out. But even before ISIS and groups like them became so adept at social media we saw individuals volunteering themselves to terrorist groups—among Palestinians and Chechens for instance and enacting terrorism very quickly. This is because the ideology of “martyrdom” and violent propaganda has seeped into the wider culture and there has been a wider acceptance of terrorist violence as means for powerless people to strike out in anger against so called oppressors or in the case of Muslim groups against those who insult Islam. We saw a similar attack in Texas only days ago in the U.S., although we still need to learn the radicalization profile there.

The facts are that many people are angry and hurt and can easily expose themselves to a terrorist group and ideology that attempts to justify violent responses to their problems and by glorifying such actions offers them a sense of meaning, significance and purpose along with belonging, perhaps some protection and friendship it can channel all their anger and concern over injustices done to them over their lifetime into a focused hatred and terrorist action. And this can happen fast.

For Muslims who join extremist groups and who have low ego strengths, the unnecessary baiting and provoking actions of drawing the Prophet as a pig, or a terrorist, can also be an overwhelming insult that can trigger him or her to activate quickly into violence if an extremist group is behind them with the “justification” for violent action and suggestions for how to enact violence. In most of our open democratic societies the exposure to terrorist groups and their ideologies are readily available over the Internet and so are weapons that can be easily procured so they can move fast and act in a matter of days or weeks as el-Hussein did. Once a vulnerable person has taken on the extremist mindset and decided he doesn’t mind dying for it he can activate and become lethal nearly instantly. The Internet these days makes finding information so easy, and guns are sadly readily available in many of our societies.

Denmark has been leading the way on trying to de-radicalize and disengage those who take on the ISIS ideology but here we see a case that was not recognized until the actor became lethal. It’s horrible but just underlines the fact that we need to do much more on terrorist prevention—by delegitimizing the acceptance in all sectors of society, but particularly with youth, that using terrorist violence for any cause is ever justified and by identifying those who have taken on such ideologies and intervening in meaningful and effective ways before they act.

Anne Speckhard, Ph.D. is Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University in the School of Medicine and of Security Studies in the School of Foreign Service. She is author of Talking to Terrorists and coauthor of Undercover Jihadi. She was responsible for designing the psychological and Islamic challenge aspects of the Detainee Rehabilitation Program in Iraq to be applied to twenty thousand detainees and eight hundred juveniles.  She also has interviewed over four hundred terrorists, their family members and supporters in various parts of the world including Gaza, the West Bank, Chechnya, Iraq, Jordan and many countries in Europe.

ISIS, the Euphoria of Jihad and Protecting Muslim Youth


In recent days we’ve witnessed six Canadian youth disappearing into thin air—likely heading for ISIS and three UK girls also recently slipped into Turkey, presumably ISIS bound. Western youth heading out to join the Caliphate is an increasing concern for all Western nations. It started in drips but the stream is increasing as disenchanted Muslim youth begin to believe the ideology that al Qaeda spent years erecting and that ISIS is now building upon.

Utopian fantasies and adventures are always appealing to youth. The euphoria of declaring a Caliphate, invoking end-times beliefs and claiming to build a society built upon Islamic ideals is of course contagious. What can we do to protect those who might answer the ISIS call? Can schools and parents make a difference?

Some might say once you’re indoctrinated, anything your parents tell you won’t help. Kids are strong-willed, stubborn—how many kids listen to their parents? Why is jihad any different than drugs or sex?

But I don’t agree.

The fight against ISIS begins with good parenting and begins at home as much as it does with resolving the political crises plaguing the Middle East, bringing justice to Muslim hotspots and delegitimizing a “jihadi” ideology that is poisonous and destructive to those who swallow it.

While governments are telling parents to warn their kids off of ISIS, it’s not a simple warning parents need to give their teenagers. It’s a whole outlook on life and training to be full human beings that will work.  If parents raise their kids from early on—well before they become teens—to believe that force solves problems then they will automatically respond to calls to use force. If discipline is carried out by striking our children—in anger for instance—rather than thoughtfully and lovingly disciplining them the final outcome will be very different.

A child that is nurtured from an early age to become empathetic, verbal and sensitive will learn to use skills that will make him more prone to peaceful resolutions of problems.  Gentle, kind, loving and sensitive parenting produces a thoughtful child who considers many responses—not just the knee-jerk response of jihad. Mosques and preschools might want to consider lessons in parenting that can pay off as children age..

Likewise giving a child the skills for critical thinking also helps her to avoid becoming easily indoctrinated by an ideology full of holes. And just like drugs and sex, parents need to talk to and be up to date with their young. If you don’t acknowledge the dangers that exist in the outside world—including the false call to “jihad”—it doesn’t make them go away. And Muslim children need to understand their faith—so some stranger doesn’t come and wrongly interpret it for them. In Chechnya for instance we found that those who went for suicide terrorism were much more likely to have not been raised with an in-depth understanding of their faith and were thus more prone to becoming indoctrinated by Wahhabi violent beliefs popular with terrorists at that time.

Schools have also influence and teachers as well as parents need to inculcate early on the understanding that terrorism is always wrong. There is NO cause, anywhere in the world that justifies intentionally targeting civilians and killing innocents in order to advance a political gain. None.

Al-Qaeda skillfully changed a whole generation of Muslim thinkers to believe first that suicide terrorism was justified in certain cases, i.e. for the Palestinians under occupation facing a much better armed enemy, or for Iraqis or Afghanis whose countries were invaded by foreign forces. But we need to teach our children that there is never any place for terrorist acts any place in the world. And when our own government engages in actions where collateral damage outweighs the targeted goal we need to cry out against that as well.

The idea that ISIS can build an ideal Islamic State imposing its violent will upon Iraqis and Syrians is of course ludicrous. Examples of failures in utopia building abound—for instance the Soviet experiment of trying to impose communism at the expense of the blood of millions of its murdered citizens. Utopias never pan out. Whether the terror of a government imposing its will upon its people or the terror of a group enacting political violence, it is always wrong. There are many skilled ways to discuss these issues in school curriculums in ways that can powerfully demonstrate the ideology of ISIS is illegitimate, as too is its use of terror and force. We need to invest serious resources into doing so if we want to save our youth.

That said, once intoxicated with the ISIS seductive call to jihad, adventure, sex and the utopian dream of living under Islamic ideals, no matter what the short term costs turn out to be—watch out.  Adventure beckons and hormones are strong.

Anne Speckhard, Ph.D. is Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University in the School of Medicine, and of Security Studies in the School of Foreign Service. She is author of Talking to Terrorists and coauthor of Undercover Jihadi. She was responsible for designing the psychological and Islamic challenge aspects of the Detainee Rehabilitation Program in Iraq to be applied to twenty thousand detainees and eight hundred juveniles.  She also has interviewed over four hundred terrorists, their family members and supporters in various parts of the world including Gaza, the West Bank, Chechnya, Iraq, Jordan and many countries in Europe.

Sochi’s grim reapers – What to know about the terrorist threat hanging over the Olympic Games

Doku Umarov

Doku Umarov

The Olympic Games in Sochi are underway, and, at least so far, the world’s worst security fears have not come true.

But the threat will lurk for the duration of the Games. This part of Russia has a well-earned reputation for being one of the planet’s most dangerous regions, because it is a uniquely poisonous cauldron of violent militant jihadi ideology, separatist guerrilla warfare and personal grudges driven by Russia’s brutal war against the Chechens.

In a series of studies conducted from 2003 to 2005 constructing psychological autopsies of 65 Chechen suicide bombers, Khapta Ahmedova, a Chechen colleague, and I found all of them to have lost a family member to a violent death at the hands of the Russians. All acted out of trauma and revenge after having been inculcated with the fanatical militant jihadi ideology that preaches Islamic “martyrdom” as a way to exit one’s life heroically while striking a lethal blow at one’s enemies.

In addition, in strong contrast to the profile of Al Qaeda terrorists that has grown familiar to Americans, many of those who pose the most serious threat to Sochi are women.

Twenty-two-year-old Ruzanna Ibragimova a Dagestani woman, pictured in wanted posters, is dressed in a modest pink hijab with a scar across her face that she is said to have gained at the hands of the Russians. Last February, Ruzanna sat alongside her rebel husband in a car when the Russians killed him. Ruzanna escaped to live. Now, trained as a suicide terrorist, she is hell-bent on death — ready to use her body as a vehicle to avenge her husband’s death.

Oksana Aslanova, also from Dagestan, is also a widow. After the Russians killed her husband, the leader of the Jamaat Sharia in Dagestan, she volunteered to go as a “martyr.” She was trained and ready to explode herself at the Day of Russia last June, according to Russian news reports, but had to be held back for another event.

She is now believed to be lurking about Sochi fully armed and ready to take on the rewards of “martyrdom” – immediate entry to paradise where she will reunite with her husband and the promise that 70 of her remaining relatives will also gain entry to paradise upon their deaths as a result of her sacrifice.

Zaira Allieva and Dzannet Tshakhaeva, also from Dagestan, are also on the loose. They were close friends with Naida Asilova, who exploded herself on a bus in Volgograd last October. The two girls fled Dagestan a week later and are now thought to be also in the Sochi region — poised to activate as suicide bombers if given the opportunity.

The organization sponsoring these four women is an outgrowth of the Chechen separatist movement begun in 1992 with the breakup of the former Soviet Union. As then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin told the former republics to “Take all the freedom you can,” Ukraine, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan did just that.

But when the Chechens, conquered so many years ago by the Russians, also tried to break free, the Russians were unwilling for those inside their own federation to let them.

Part of the reason: Chechnya has oil. So two bloody wars ensued, with Vladimir Putin carpet-bombing the capital of Grozny in the second war, causing more than half the Chechen population to flee, many becoming refugees who resettled around the world.

Then-rebel leader Shamil Basaev, seeing that the West was not coming to his aid, became convinced by a middle easterner – Ibn al-Khattab – that the only way to win was to transition the rebel movement to a terrorist campaign that explicitly embraced martyrdom and suicide terrorism.

In 2000, Basaev began a campaign of suicide attacks. Distinguishing Chechnya from many other rebellions, from the beginning, women took part in over 30 acts of terror. These included blowing up two domestic flights, exploding subways, buses, trains; it also included mass-hostage takings – one in Moscow where over 800 theatergoers were held and another in Beslan where 1,300 school teachers, mothers and children were held. In this group women have taken part in suicide acts from the start. It was women who exploded themselves on planes, and women were involved in both hostage-takings as well.

As it has metastasized over the years, the Chechen suicide terror campaign has involved more than 115 suicide bombers – half of them women. The spillover from it has spread well beyond Chechnya into neighboring Dagestan, Ingushetia and beyond.

The present terrorist leader, Doku Umarov, declared the region in 2007 as the Caucasus Emirate. In 2013, he declared that he would not allow the Russians to hold the Olympics in Sochi over the dead bones of his Muslim compatriots, the Circassians. Following the Crimean war, where, in 1859, the Russians killed and deported Circassians from the region en masse, with an estimated 625,000 deaths in what historian Walter Richmond has labeled Europe’s first genocide.

Umarov now leads an organization that has since 2000 shown itself to be capable to standing up a significant militant and terrorist campaign against Putin’s formidable authority.

Importantly for those considering the possibility of terrorist acts at the Games, the rebel forces have frequently succeeded in penetrating Russian security forces through bribes and corruption.

Ruzanna Ibragimova


Ruzanna Ibragimova

In 2004, the Chechens embarrassed Putin by placing explosives under the review stand of then-Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov, who was blown to smithereens while viewing a parade of Russian military force.

Similarly, the Beslan hostage takers bragged to their hostages that they had “bought” them at a small price referencing that they had bribed their way from Chechnya into North Ossetia to take over the school. The terrorists there had also managed to have a cache of weapons placed under the floorboards of the school before their arrival.

Are Umarov’s cadres capable of placing explosives under the Russian review stand at Sochi? That’s unlikely, given that the Russians would be ready for it this time. And not only are the Russians scrutinizing the Olympic venue, but multinational forces are also working alongside them on the ground. While the Russians may take bribes to turn a blind eye, the FBI and other forces won’t.

Could he and his compatriots spirit in a cache of weapons and stage a Munich-style attack on the athletes themselves? Also unlikely, given Umarov’s stated ambivalence about attacking civilians and suicide attacks after the Beslan school hostage.

After the Beslan debacle, there was a worldwide backlash to Basaev’s decision to take women and children in a school hostage. In response, Umarov declared that his group would no longer attack civilians or use suicide terrorism. Their fight, he insisted, was with the Russian forces and their desire to gain independence from Putin’s rule. He reversed that position however when the Olympics were announced, urging his followers to “do their utmost to derail” them. He’s warned foreigners to avoid the Games.

That said, Umarov knows that gunning down the athletes themselves would likely result in a similar backlash. Expect him to avoid that tactic.

But it would be worse than naïve to expect Chechen terrorists to sit out the Games entirely. When the Sochi Olympics were announced, Umarov could not resist the worldwide stage and press opportunities presented. He was no doubt additionally irritated that Putin believed he could stage the Winter Olympics with impunity in this previously Muslim-dominated area, on-as he stated, “the bones of our ancestors.” That’s why he vowed to stop the Olympics.

Now he has a worldwide stage on which to play out his desires. And, as one of the only organized resistance movements to Putin’s dismantling of democratic freedoms, he may think he can win over adherents by flexing his militant muscles in the face of a frantic Russian security apparatus.

But can’t Putin, among the world’s most powerful strongmen, detect and snuff out whatever a rebel army might be planning – especially given the unprecedented surveillance infrastructure that’s in operation at Sochi?

While more than 40,000 Russian security forces have been dispatched to guard the Olympics, those that have been shipped in from other parts of Russia lack local knowledge and contacts. They have not yet won the trust of the local population.

Umarov’s cadres, by comparison, have tight-knit cells reliant on familial and religious bonds and they have demonstrated their capability to construct explosives, train and motivate operatives and pass security checkpoints.

Their cadres do not fear death. Their motto is “Victory or paradise!” They are ready to die for their cause.

They could also receive unexpected help from abroad. As half the population of Chechnya fled the second war’s carpet bombing, many now live abroad and have European, American, Canadian and Australian passports.

They could pass into Russia on clean passports, unsuspected. Tamerlan Tsarvaev, the Boston bomber, was after all originally from Chechnya and eluded U.S. and Russian surveillance when he traveled to and from Dagestan before attacking Boston.

Whatever “special package” the terrorists have planned for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, spectators can take some comfort in the fact that their security is reliant on multinational cooperation among forces that are not all subject to legendary Russian corruption. The Olympic venue itself is likely to be secure. That said, transportation hubs and places where crowds gather in Sochi itself may be vulnerable to attack.

And, in at least one small way, the terrorists have already managed to disrupt Olympic plans. Most official delegations have decreased their size, some teams are leaving their family members home and ticket sales are down. As for further disruptions, let’s hope that while our athletes go for the gold, the terrorists are unable to do anything further to upstage them.

Anne Speckhard, Ph.D. is Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University in the Medical School and has interviewed over four hundred terrorists, their associates and close family members and their hostages in various countries around the world. She is author of the book “Talking to Terrorists.”  This piece was printed originally in the New York Daily News Opinion Section February 9, 2014  http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/sochi-grim-reapers-article-1.1606377#ixzz2swHh4ASw

The Chechen Black Widows—Female Terrorists in al Qaeda and the Tsarnaev Brothers

As Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s body awaits a burial place and Dzhokar Tsarnaev a trial for charges of using weapons of mass destruction, the spotlight has temporarily been turned to the elder brother Tamerlan’s wife, Katherine Russell, whose computer has been found to have al Qaeda materials downloaded to it and whose kitchen and bathroom show traces of explosive materials indicating the brothers’ bombs were likely assembled in her home.  Katherine Russell, an all American girl who converted to Islam after falling in love with Tamerlan was married to him in June of 2010 and together they had a small child.

Russell claims that she knew nothing about her husband’s intentions and has, according to FBI informal reports, been working closely with them.  The possibility that Russell could also be a terrorist alongside her husband raises questions for many about the involvement of the female “Black Widows” –suicide operatives in the Chechen terrorist groups that following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, hijacked that republic’s secular independence movement turning it into a Chechen “jihad”.

During the early nineties when the Chechen secular rebel movement was met with a firm Russian response culminating in the first Chechen war of independence, the Chechen freedom fighters looked to the west for support.  Except for westerners decrying human rights violations, the Chechen freedom fighters didn’t find the support they hoped for.  But they did find—between the two wars of independence with Russia—an influx of foreign fighters coming victorious from the Afghan jihad—militants still euphoric over defeating the former USSR.  These foreign fighters were confident that they could declare and win a “jihad” in Chechnya as well.

Most notable among them was Saudi foreign fighter Khattab, who brought the nascent al Qaeda ideology along with the methods of “martyrdom” or suicide missions into the Chechen battle for independence.  He successfully convinced then rebel leader Shamil Basaeyev to change methods.  Khattab and other foreign fighters brought the ideology, themselves as trainers and funneled funds into the “Chechen jihad” changing it completely. And as a result starting in 2000, a long terrorist campaign grew up out of the Chechen rebel movement in which over thirty suicide missions were carried out involving over one hundred and twelve “martyrs” half of whom were women operatives who blew themselves up in subways, on airplanes, at checkpoints and most infamously who took over a Moscow theater of over eight hundred theater goers and the Beslan school, taking over twelve hundred hostages—mostly women and children. 

And what was perhaps most chilling about the Chechen terrorists was that they used women from the start.  The first Chechen suicide bombers were two young women who drove an explosive laden truck into their target.  Half of the hostage takers in Moscow were women dressed in long black Salafi style robes with bomb belts strapped to their waists—they were seen by journalist as women in mourning clothes when in fact they were dressed in conservative Islamic dress common to their extremist groups and they were wrongly dubbed the “Black Widows”. 

All the Chechen suicide bombers that we conducted psychological autopsies on (over half of the total) had lost a family member traumatically to the two wars but the women had lost not only husbands, but brothers and fathers as well—so many were widows, but some were simply traumatically bereaved and seeking revenge.  For Chechens this was the first time that women had been involved in revenge seeking behaviors – a domain in Chechen culture usually reserved only for the men.

As Chechens joined the militant jihadi ideology we found that they were instructed by their Middle Eastern teachers that they should fulfill their life duties before going on suicide missions—by marrying and having children—something that Tamerlan also did.  Likewise women were presented in their world view as useful for childbearing but the best “love” was presented as “brotherly” or homosexual lovemaking and women were presented as needing to be respected, but as unclean.  Basaeyev as well as other terrorist leaders also chose their wives strategically from among various areas and clans so as to guarantee protection when needed from their extended families.

The Chechen case gave us one of the first insights into how women carry out their roles in militant jihadi groups.  Thus far al-Qaeda central has been slow to use women—although two Belgian women were recruited into their ranks and one—a European descent white convert—Muriel Degauque carried out a suicide mission in Iraq.  Al Qaeda in Iraq also began to use female bombers toward the end when males could no longer pass the checkpoints and we have now seen them in Afghanistan as well.  But unlike in Chechnya where women joined the fighters in the forest and were suicide bombers from the beginning, al Qaeda has kept women in the roles of money carriers, instigators—some in Europe even offering themselves as a prize in marriage to potential “martyrs”, as translators of militant jihadi texts into the local languages and in some rare cases even as suicide operatives and trainers.  Women have yet to be fully activated in al Qaeda central. 

And although women joined right from the start in the Chechen case, we did not find them in leadership roles—men still call the shots when it comes to terrorism. Indeed in the Moscow theater hostage taking the women terrorists inside the theater (mercifully) did not detonate their bombs without an order from the men who were outside the theater proper—engaged in battle with Russian Special Forces.  Although the women could have blown the theater and all those held there to bits, had they felt the initiative to act on their own.

With Katherine Russell, we still wait to learn more.  She was a hardworking mother supporting her family—working seventy to eighty hours a week outside her home.  She may have been just like the many Palestinian family members I interviewed who were in complete shock upon learning their son or daughter had blown themselves up—and she may have failed to notice how radicalized and serious her husband had become about his extremist views.  Lack of knowledge and denial of the horrific is often a common attribute among close family members of terrorists.

Her case does however bring up a chilling parallel of the 7-7 London metro bomber, Germaine Lindsay’s widow—Samantha Lewthwaite—who also claimed innocence after her husband’s terrorist act, calling it “abhorrent”. Lewthwaite, also the mother of her “martyred” husband’s two children later turned up in Kenya leading and carrying out terrorist attacks against western targets.  Lewthwaite according to a UK police officer’s comments reported in the Telegraph to have written in her diary that the devoted wife of a mujahid (holy warrior) must realize that her “life in the hereafter promised to be sweeter because of her husband’s “sacrifice” and that a wife must be “discrete”, “obedient” and must understand that her husband’s calling meant that she and her husband would be cut off from their families.

Let’s hope the story of a terrorist’s wife and mother to his child doesn’t follow those same lines in the case of Katherine Russell who in any case must be suffering from a great deal of sadness and loss over her husband’s sudden heinous death.  And let’s hope that al Qaeda continues to be reluctant to use women operatives as time has proven they are the best at passing security checkpoints and lulling us into a false sense of safety. 

Anne Speckhard, Ph.D. is Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry in the Georgetown University Medical School and author of Talking to Terrorists: Understanding the Psycho-Social Motivations of Militant Jihadi Terrorists, Mass Hostage Takers, Suicide Bombers & “Martyrs” In the last decade she interviewed over four hundred terrorists, suicide bombers, terrorist supporters, family members, close associates and hostages. She also conducted psychological autopsies with a Chechen colleague on over half of the 112 Chechen suicide bombers investigating what put them on the terrorist trajectory and what motivated them to explode themselves.