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Weapons & Tactics

Terrorist Weapons and Tactics


Terrorist weapons range from the very simple (e.g., knife or stone) to high technology (e.g., biological agents, nerve gases). The choice of weapon is determined by availability, suitability for a specific task, and terror value. The psychological impact of terrorism is partially a function of the terrorist’s choice of weapons and targets and partially a function of the tactics used to employ these weapons against the selected targets. A rudimentary understanding of the terrorist’s potential weapons and of terrorist tactics is essential for understanding the psychology of terrorism.

Click Terrorist Weapons and Tactics to view the draft version of the PowerPoint presentation (1.84 MB).

Focus Questions

  1. What are the weapons of terrorists?
  2. Which of the terrorists’ weapons are the most terrifying?
  3. Why kill people instead of committing acts of sabotage (e.g., destroying inanimate objects such as power plants)?
  4. Why kill civilians instead of political targets?
  5. Is the objective . . . to kill the most people? To maim the targets? To randomize the targets (i.e., everyone is vulnerable)?
  6. Design your own terrorist campaign for attacking the United States. Develop five different methods of attack. Specify what weapons would you use, how would you deploy them, and what targets you would select for each attack plan. Rank order your response from most effective to least effective plan of attack.