Tags: ISIS/Islamic State | ISIS | beheadings | al Qaida

ISIS Not Alone in Using Beheadings as Terror Tactic

ISIS Not Alone in Using Beheadings as Terror Tactic
British journalist David Cawthorne Haines, left, being threatened at the time of the execution. (Islamic State Video/Handout/EPA/Landov)

By    |   Wednesday, 08 October 2014 01:37 PM

Recent videos showing the brutal deaths of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff shocked and outraged Americans, but the use of beheadings by terrorists is not a new phenomenon, reports Politico.

"The common misperception is that these beheadings are meant only to intimidate the West. On the contrary, beheadings are a deliberate strategy — one successfully employed in 2004 by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, founder of al Qaida in Iraq, ISIL’s predecessor organization, with the beheading of American Nick Berg — to improve recruitment efforts and build military strength to fight its enemies in Iraq and Syria," write Robert A, Pape, Michael Rowley and Sarah Morell of the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism.

In fact, history is littered with prominent examples of public beheadings, from John the Baptist and Marie Antoinette to Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002, whose execution caused the same reaction among Westerners as the more recent beheadings in Syria.

The idea that the motive behind beheadings is multifaceted is shared by Tom Sanderson, co-director of Transnational Threats Project for the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Sanderson told PBS recently that one reason is to inspire terror, while the other is "certainly about the empowerment both for themselves and for those young men they are trying to recruit."

As of September, U.S. Central Command estimated that ISIS had about 20,000 to 31,500 fighters, including 2,000 Westerners, according to BBC News.

The Daniel Pearl murder, which also was videotaped, marked the resurgence of the historical Islamic practice.

Two years after Pearl's beheading, an Islamic website showed the murder of American Eugene Armstrong by five masked members of the insurgent group founded by Zarqawi.

In the video, four members stood behind Armstrong, while one read a statement and, before beheading their hostage, one said, "We will apply God's law on them," CNN reported in September 2004.

"The new fad in terrorist brutality has extended to Saudi Arabia where Islamist terrorists murdered American businessman Paul Johnson, whose head was later discovered in a freezer in an al-Qaida hideout," Professor Timothy R. Furnish wrote in a 2005 article in Middle East Quarterly.

As successful as ISIS has been in inspiring fear in Westerners and loyalty among its recruits, the use of beheadings can be a double-edged sword.

Shashank Joshi, a senior research fellow of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), argues that "such excessive and indiscriminate violence" was what led to the demise of ISIS' precursor, al-Qaida in Iraq.

What differentiates ISIS from other terrorist groups is they show no reluctance to behead women and children.

"I think most Americans are not aware of how many beheadings are occurring each day.

"And ISIS has taken it to where they have almost devolved into a more primal form where they are literally doing — beheading like 50 people at a time and putting their heads on display. And prior to ISIS, you didn't see children and women being beheaded either. So they have definitely changed the level of violence," Dawn Perlmutter, director of the Symbol Intelligence Group, said in an August interview with National Public Radio (NPR).

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Recent videos showing the brutal deaths of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff shocked and outraged Americans, but the use of beheadings by terrorists is not a new phenomenon, reports Politico.
ISIS, beheadings, al Qaida
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2014-37-08
Wednesday, 08 October 2014 01:37 PM
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