The Mind Of A Suicide Bomber

Not Psycotic

Two of the foremost experts on suicide bombers tell 60 Minutes that people like those who crashed airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon are not suicidal psychotics.

Correspondent Bob Simon interviews a Palestinian psychiatrist and an Israeli psychologist who have studied suicide bombers. He also speaks to failed suicide bombers Murad Tawalbeh and Hamd Abu Mailek for a report examining the psychology of suicide bombing to be the lead story for

"I don't know of a single case of a [suicide bomber] who is really psychotic," says Dr. Ariel Merari, an Israeli psychologist at Tel Aviv University who has studied every suicide bombing in the Middle East for the last 18 years. The only abnormality in a suicide bomber’s psychological profile is a lack of fear at the time of the attack, he tells Simon.

Such bombers also lack a violent streak says Dr. Eyad Sarraj, a Muslim psychiatrist who has treated many families of suicide bombers in Gaza. "[Suicide bombers] usually were very timid people, introverted, their problem was always communication…They were not violent at all." The young men can overcome their shyness by becoming the heroes they worship – suicide bombers who become icons on posters just like sports stars. "In my tee-nage time, my symbols were body builders and movie stars and singers," Sarraj tells Simon. "Then it changed…the fighter…the stone thrower... today it is the martyr."

Murad Tawalbeh’s own brother recruited him for a suicide bombing that was to take place in a crowded market in Haifa.

"He was giving me a ticket to heaven. I took his hand and kissed it because he wanted to give me something precious," Tawalbeh says of the moment his brother showed him the bomb. “Because he loves me he wants me to become a martyr…the most exalted thing in our religion,” Tawalbeh tells Simon. Nobody had to approach Hamd Abu Mailek; he looked for and found someone who could put a bomb on him. But in the end, he was disappointed. "The explosives didn’t go off... Naturally one feels sad…Jews were not killed,” says Mailek. "I never felt so calm in my life," he says of the moments before pushing the detonator button, "It was the will of God.” Says Tawalbeh, “ I was very happy…waiting for the time to come."

Merari explains that the recruited suicide bomber is resolute in his aims. "A person sees himself as already dead. There is no return for him without really losing self respect," he says.


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