A suicide attack is a method of directing a weapon against a target, guided by a human being, who will inevitably die in the attack. In modern times, the first class of frequent suicide attacks were by various Japanese weapons in the Second World War, primarily conventional aircraft, kamikaze, that would crash into the target. These weapons were used exclusively against military targets.
Defining the attack type is difficult, and explaining the motivation is even harder. Not all suicide attacks meet the basic criterion of terrorism: attack on civilian targets. Indeed, the suicider may not even attempt to harm anyone directly, but instead attack a political objective, as in the self-immolation of monks in the South Vietnamese Buddhist crisis and coup of 1963. Definite terrorist attacks, however, were characterized by spokesmen for the George W. Bush Administration as "homicide attacks", while their sponsors called them "martyrdom operations."
Suicide attacks, often by an individual wearing an explosive charge and walking to the target, are common terrorist attacks; the targets may be military but often are civilian. Larger and deadlier attacks come when the explosives are in a vehicle (e.g., 1983 Beirut barracks bombings) or by boat (USS Cole, 2000) and by large aircraft as in the 9-11 attacks.
- Irwin J. Mansdorff (15 April 2003), "The Psychological Framework of Suicide Terrorism", Jerusalem Letter / Viewpoints
- Ari Fleischer (April 11, 2002), Press Briefing, Office of the Press Secretary
- Islamic Republic News Agency (January 5, 2009), Over 70,000 students sign up for martyrdom operation list, Globalsecurity