Terrorism is the use or threat of violence to create fear and alarm. Terrorists murder and kidnap people, set off bombs, hijack airplanes, set fires, and commit other serious crimes. But the goals of terrorists differ from those of ordinary criminals. Most criminals want money or some other form of personal gain. Most terrorists commit crimes to support political causes.
The word terrorism first appeared during the French Revolution (1789-1799). Some of the revolutionaries who seized power in France adopted a policy of violence against their enemies. The period of their rule became known as the Reign of Terror.
Features of terrorism. Terrorist acts are committed for various reasons. Some individuals and groups that use terrorism support a particular political philosophy. Others represent minority groups seeking liberation from governments in power. Dictators and totalitarian governments also use violence to frighten or eliminate their opponents. Most terrorist groups are small. They believe the threat or use of violence to create fear is the best way to gain publicity and support for their causes.
Generally, terrorists attack people who oppose their cause or objects that symbolize such opposition. Common victims of kidnappings and assassinations include diplomats, business executives, political leaders, police, and judges. Terrorists also attack churches, mosques, and synagogues, as well as oil refineries and government offices. At other times, terrorists choose any target certain to attract media coverage. Some terrorists hijack airplanes. Then they hold the passengers hostage and make demands to further their cause. They often...