Publication Details

A. Dolnik & R. Gunaratna, 'Jemaah Islamiyah and the threat of chemical and biological terrorism' in R. D. Howard & J. J F. Forest(ed), Weapons of Mass Destruction and Terrorism (2008) 280-294.


Over the course of the past decade, the possibility of the use of chemical and biological weapons (CBW) by non-state actors has been a topic of extensive academic and public debate. Originally, this debate concentrated primarily on capabilities, where the ease of acquisition of CBW materials after the breakup of the Soviet Union, as well as more widespread availability of information needed for the production and weaponization of CBW agents, were the sources of major concern. Relatively recently, the debate was brought to a more realistic level through the acknowledgment of technical hurdles associated with the successful delivery of CBW agents, as well as the possible motivational constraints involved in the decision of terrorist groups to use such weapons. Another shift in the debate was represented by the claim that the rise of religious terrorism had eroded these constraints. According to this argument, religious terrorists whose operations have been observed to be responsible for the vast majority of all casualties in terrorist attacks worldwide are believed to be unconstrained by political considerations, as their only constituency is God. Further, the ability of religious terrorists to dehumanize indiscriminately their enemies is strengthened by the perceived divine sanction of their actions.

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