Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Public Policy & Administration

First Advisor

Dr. William Newmann

Second Advisor

Dr. Herbert Hirsch

Third Advisor

Dr. Archana Pathak

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Faedah Totah

Fifth Advisor

Dr. Judyth Twigg


The central hypothesis of this study is that terrorist organizations choose to use females as suicide bombers not only as tactical innovation but also to “signal” or send a message to various audiences. In order to meet the research objectives of this study, two terrorist organizations—the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Chechen Separatists or those individuals associated with the Chechen Resistance—are examined in detail from their inception through 2013 using a structured focused comparison methodology.

Evidence is found to support both of the studies’ main hypotheses. First, female suicide bombers are used by terrorist organizations because they are a 1) tactical advantage, and 2) to “signal” or send a message to various audiences. Their “entertainment” or shock value maximizes the psychological punch intended for delivery to a variety of audiences. These two reasons are not mutually exclusive but are colored by contextual considerations unique to each case. While deliberation was given to a variety of socio-political factors unique to each organization—such as popular support for suicide attacks perpetrated by females, indication of rival terrorist organizations, counterterrorism and political events that may have affected the terrorist organizations’ preference for females—insight into the operational characteristics surrounding individual suicide attacks was central in highlighting patterns in the organizational use of female suicide bombers. Those patterns are consistent across both cases and suggest that when females’ use is explained by the tactical innovation model, they are used overwhelmingly in suicide attacks where getting closer to intended targets—usually defined as security and political targets—matter. In contrast, suicide attacks explained by the signaling model are characterized by their novelty usually representing a deviation from terrorist organizations’ operational norms—deemed operational suicide attack anomalies in this study—characterized many times as “only” suicide attacks, “firsts [of that kind of],” or the most spectacular suicide attacks carried out by the organization.


In regards to one comment - the orientation of charts is landscape when submitting.

Also, added full name.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission