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The psychology of bombers

What can psychological research tell us about why some people turn to violent extremism?

By Michael Bond   June 2007

The question about 7/7 that Shiv Malik’s excellent article fails to answer is this: why did Mohammad Sidique Khan and his three co-conspirators choose the path of the suicide bomber when others, with similarly radical beliefs, have not?

This question troubles many who look into the psychology of extreme acts. One completely unsatisfactory answer is that violent extremists are insane, disturbed or inherently bad. It’s unsatisfactory because the vast majority of suicide bombers, the 7/7 four included, show no sign of mental illness and have no criminal history. They are often better educated than their peers and hold respectable jobs—much…

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