Weapon of Choice: Terrorist Bombings in Armed Conflict

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Under what circumstances do armed groups in conflict choose to use terrorist bombings? This article challenges the conventional wisdom that terrorist bombings are done by either ideologically-driven or weak armed groups who have no reasonable prospect of success on the battlefield. Drawing from Mao’s theory of protracted struggle, it argues that terrorist bombings are a weapon of choice for armed groups that have transitioned into capable fighting armies but lack the degree of popular support they need to be a serious political contender. Using data on attributed terrorist bombings from 1998–2005, it finds that Islamist groups and older armed groups with sizeable membership are more likely to use terrorist bombings than smaller or newer groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)778-798
Number of pages21
JournalStudies in Conflict and Terrorism
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Safety Research
  • Political Science and International Relations


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