Some years back, noted terrorism scholar Mia Bloom argued in her book, Dying to Kill, that terrorist organizations may adopt suicide tactics in part as an effort to “outbid” each other for popular support. In short, when faced with political competition from a rival group, a terrorist organization may turn to increasingly brutal methods as a way to demonstrate to potential supporters both superior capability and greater commitment to their shared cause.
This may, as Bloom suggested on Twitter over the weekend, account for the significant increase in terrorist attacks in Afghanistan in recent days, as ISIS makes inroads into the Taliban’s territory:
(With apologies for the crass self-promotion) I'm wondering whether increased attacks by #ISIS in Khorasan (where we've observed an uptick in propaganda output) & today's attack by the Taliban might be a case of competition & outbidding I postulated yrs ago in "Dying to Kill"
— (((Mia Bloom))) (@MiaMBloom) January 27, 2018
On Saturday, a Taliban attacker driving a stolen ambulance packed with explosives, killed more than 100 in central Kabul and injured more than 150. This came only a few days after Taliban militants launched an assault on Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel which led to the killing of 22, including 14 foreigners.
Today, ISIS launched an attack of its own in Kabul, hitting a military base in the center of the Afghan capital and leaving nearly a dozen dead. Channeling Bloom’s thesis, the headline at CNN this morning put it this way: “Kabul military base attack shows ISIS and Taliban are in a brutal race.”
If the Taliban and ISIS are in fact locked in a competition for popular support, then we can expect the carnage to escalate even as the United States prepares to send up to another 1,000 troops to Afghanistan to join the more than 14,000 already deployed there.
Now on to this week’s look back:
- Jan. 29, 1998 — Birmingham, Ala.: An off-duty police officer is killed and a nurse badly wounded when a nail-packed bomb explodes outside an abortion clinic. The radical anti-abortion group, Army of God, claims responsibility.
- Jan. 29, 2017 — Quebec City, Canada: Six are killed an 19 others are wounded in a mass shooting following evening prayers at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec, a mosque in Quebec City. Alexandre Bissonnette, a 27-year-old French Canadian who was described as a supporter of both French far-right politician Marine Le Pen and US President Donald Trump, was charged in the attack.
- Jan. 30, 2010 — Khar, Afghanistan: A female suicide bomber kills 14 civilians and three soldiers. No claim of responsibility is made.
- Jan. 31, 1984 — County Armagh, Northern Ireland: Two Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers are killed in an Irish Republican Army land mine attack on their armored patrol car.
- Feb. 1, 2009 — Baghdad: A female suicide bomber kills 46 Shia pilgrims.
- Feb. 2, 2009 — Tarin Kot, Afghanistan: A suicide bomber kills 25 police officers and wounds many more. Taliban claims responsibility.
- Feb. 3, 1977 — Belfast, Northern Ireland: A Catholic civilian is found stabbed and with his throat cut. Members of a Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) gang known as the “Shankill Butchers” are responsible.
- Feb, 4, 2009 — Barbacoas, Colombia: Seventeen civilians are stabbed to death. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) claims responsibility.