Is the targeted assassination of terrorist suspects an effective response to terrorism? NO: The Case Against

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


For advocates of hard-line policies like targeted assassinations, the loss of assassinated members deals a steady stream of serious blows to the terrorist groups. The death of an experienced bomb-maker, for example, can disrupt planned attacks which must be postponed or abandoned until alternative sources of weaponry can be acquired. The reliability and quality of these alternative suppliers may be uncertain, resulting in less effective and more risky operations for the terrorists. The loss of senior leaders also necessitates internal reorganisation and again a period of adjustment for the group. However the evidence available to date has found that targeted killings fail on the key element of decreasing the number of attacks taking place. Indeed, the research findings from Israel, Spain, Northern Ireland, Afghanistan and elsewhere, point to targeted killings either having no impact on the level of violence or else they lead to an increase in the number of attacks taking place. Despite whatever damage or losses the assassinations inflict on terrorist groups, the organisations are clearly able to endure and are not significantly weakened. If anything some targeted killings appear to make groups (slightly) more aggressive and more robust.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationContemporary Debates on Terrorism
EditorsRichard Jackson, Samuel Sinclair
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages7
ISBN (Print)9780415591164, 9780415591157
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • targeted assassination
  • targeted killing
  • counterterrorism
  • extra-legal assassination
  • shoot-to-kill

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