Suicide terrorism is thriving in Syria, is spreading and destabilizing neighboring Lebanon and threatens the security of Western states, a study published this week warned.
The study, carried out by the Tel Aviv-based Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, found that 15 percent of all suicide bombings in the world in 2013 took place in Syria, and noted a surge of similar attacks in Lebanon since the start of 2014.
“This is the first study of its kind in the world that studies the use of suicide bombing in Syria as a modus operandi,” Reuven Erlich, head of the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. “It’s relevant to the security of the West. This is not merely a theoretical study.”
The center is a part of the Israeli Intelligence and Heritage Commemoration Center, which was founded in the 1980s by leading members of the Israeli intelligence community.
According to the report’s authors, suicide bombings were imported into Syria by terrorists copying al-Qaida attacks in Iraq and other Islamic battle arenas.
The two organizations most associated with this form of terrorism in Syria are Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaida’s official branch, and its rival, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Syria (ISIS).
Suicide bombings carried out in 2012 and 2013 caused heavy losses and damages to the Syrian regime, struck symbols of state sovereignty – targeted government buildings – and raised the profile of the organizations that dispatched the bombers, the report said.
“These attacks spread in 2014 to Lebanon, and have become the leading modus operandi” of Sunni groups fighting Hezbollah and the Shi’ite community there, it said.
The biggest number of suicide terror attacks was carried out by Jabhat al-Nusra. Since its founding in January of 2012, the organization carried out 43 of the recorded 50 suicide bombings in Syria that year, and in 2013, it carried out 34 additional attacks.
ISIS, for its part, carried out nine suicide bombings since its founding in May 2013.
Both groups carried out a combined number of 43 suicide bombings in 2013, using 53 attackers, the report said.
Since the start of 2014, five suicide bombings tore through Hezbollah-dominated areas in Lebanon – four of them carried out by Jabhat al-Nusra and one by ISIS.
The bombers most commonly used suicide explosive vests strapped to their bodies. Car and truck bombs laden with explosives were also used to cause mass casualties and widespread carnage.
“Some attacks included a combination of two to three car bombs, simultaneously or gradually,” the report said.
A number of attacks displayed “a high level of sophistication and professionalism. In one terrorist attack, six suicide bombers detonated themselves at the same time against two adjacent targets,” the report said. The use of simultaneous bombers against high-value targets is spreading.
Most of the suicide bombers were foreign volunteers, mainly from the Arab world. Saudi Arabian bombers formed the bulk of the attackers.
These developments pose a security threat well beyond Syria, the report’s authors said.
The spread of suicide terrorism to Lebanon, which is undermining the country’s internal stability, is one clear example of how this form of attack can spread.
“In our assessment, the longer the [Syrian] civil war drags out, the more likely it is for suicide bomb terror attacks to occur in other states. Foreign Jihadi activists, fighting in Syria, who return to their states might initiate, or take part in, suicide terrorist attacks while using their widespread operational experience, acquired in Syria, and the connections they formed with al-Qaida and global jihad activists,” the report said Additionally, Jihad groups in Syria may initiate terrorism against Western states – such as Israel – and Arab-Muslim states in the future, after their initial goal of toppling the Assad regime is reached.