What makes a person willing to give their life in the name of holy war? A Boston Globe piece offers a novel theory on the inspirations of suicide bombers: rather than being the most rabid of true-believer fanatics, many may be individuals who are severely depressed and eager to kill themselves, and see “martyrdom” as not technically being suicide:
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Williams is among a small cadre of scholars from across the world pushing the rather contentious idea that some suicide bombers may in fact be suicidal. At the forefront is the University of Alabama’s Adam Lankford, who recently published an analysis of suicide terrorism in the journal Aggression and Violent Behavior. Lankford cites Israeli scholars who interviewed would-be Palestinian suicide bombers. These scholars found that 40 percent of the terrorists showed suicidal tendencies; 13 percent had made previous suicide attempts, unrelated to terrorism. Lankford finds Palestinian and Chechen terrorists who are financially insolvent, recently divorced, or in debilitating health in the months prior to their attacks.