Since the late 1990s, an unfortunately common tactic employed by  Islamic radicals around the world is the use of suicide attacks. Whether strapping on a vest packed with explosives and ball-bearings; or hijacking airliners and flying them into buildings, the hallmark tactic of Islamic terrorists involves killing themselves in the act of murdering their opponents.

This practice of killing one’s enemies in suicidal attack is nothing new, historically speaking. All societies in every age have experienced incidents where an individual, for whatever reason, has been driven to make a suicidal attack on another. And certainly the Japanese “kamikaze” attacks during WWII added a new word for suicidal attacks to the American lexicon.

But only in Islamic history does this practice of sending suicide assassins against political and military opponents appear as a common tactic of well-organized groups.

The very word “assassin” dates back to the 11th century, from the Islamic Middle East.

It derives from the  Persian term for a follower of Hassan ibn-al-Sabbah, founder of a murderous sect of political killers in the mountains of northern Persia. In the last decade of the 11th century, Hassan and his followers seized the mountain fortress of Alamut, “the Eagle’s Nest”; and turned this into the headquarters for a network of political assassins that terrorized the Middle East for two centuries. Hassan and his successors came to be called “The Old Man of the Mountain”. And his killers, the followers of Hassan, came to be called “hassassins”!

According to Marco Polo, who visited Alamut in 1273:

“The Old Man kept at his court such boys of twelve years old as seemed to him destined to become courageous men. When the Old Man sent them into the garden in groups of four, ten or twenty, he game them hashish to drink [sic]. They slept for three days, then they were carried sleeping into the garden where he had them awakened.

“When these young men woke, and found themselves in the garden with all these marvelous things, they truly believed themselves to be in paradise. And these damsels were always

with them in songs and great entertainments; they; received everything they asked for, so that they would never have left that garden of their own will.”

And when the Old Man wished to kill someone, he would take him and say: ‘Go and do this thing. I do this because I want to make you return to paradise’. And the assassins go and perform the deed willingly.”

In a misplaced desire to attain paradise, the assassins (or “hassassins”) would murder for the political ends of the Old Man of the Mountain.

It takes little imagination to transpose the names of the players and see the similarities then and now. Instead of poisoned dagger, today’s “hassassins” use bomb vests. Instead of serving the Old Man of the Mountain, they receive their orders from leaders of shadowy terror cells, from Hezbollah and Hammas and Al Qaeda. 

The first time American officials and soldiers faced Muslim suicide terrorists was in the first decade of the 20th century, in the towns and villages of the southern Philippine Islands.

Following the Spanish American War, the United States took possession of the Spanish colonial territories in the Pacific; including the Philippine Islands.

Americans were soon facing a rebellion by the Muslim tribes of the southern islands, known as Moros. These had been fighting for their independence from Spain and the Catholic northern islands for some time. When America appeared on the scene, the Moros redirected their fury against us.

Unable to prevail in battle against the American military, the Moros resorted to the use of suicidal assassins; targeting American officials and Army officers.

These assassins, known as “juramentado“,  followed a strange practice in carrying out their attacks: in place of today’s bomb vests, the Moro killers would “run amok”!

Today, a person who goes upon a crazy, violent rampage can be said to have “run amok”. The origin of the word “amok” is actually Malay. For a variety reasons, from time-to-time Malay Muslim men in Southeast Asia would work themselves into an uncontrollable rage; and go on a murderous killing spree. A man so running amok would cut down any who came across his path! This would continue until his neighbors, bystanders, or the authorities killed him!

The Moro rebels fighting America in the early 20th century turned this practice into a political tool.

The juramentado would prepare for his mission by having his TESTICLES TIED OFF WITH COPPER WIRE! In a state of intense agony, the juramentado would spend the night working himself into a killing frenzy. By the next day, the juramentado would be in such agony; in such an altered state of consciousness, that his mind would no longer register additional external pain.

The juramentado would be led to where his target was expected (usually in public places). Just before being unleashed against the victim, his arms and legs were tied with occluding ligatures; reducing blood loss from expected wounds to these extremities.

At that moment the juramentado would charge forward (often out of a crowd) and assault the victim with the distinctive Moro sword, the Kris; or the equally nasty looking hacking knife, the barong. Despite being shot multiple times by the victim and his escort or comrades-in-arms, the juramentado would not stop hacking till the target was slain. Not till after his victim was dead would the juramentado collapse and die.


Over the centuries, the tools have changed; but the use of suicidal attacks has not. From the Middle East to the Philippine archipelago, Muslim fanatics have attacked and murdered opponents with suicidal rage; their goal to kill their enemy and by so doing achieve “paradise”.  And while neither political murder nor suicide are unique to Muslims; the combination as a political tool is.

We have not seen the last or the worst example of Muslim suicide attacks. God help us when the day comes that a future “juramentado” runs amok with a nuclear device.



  1. Pingback: WAR! « Temple of Mut

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