The Rise and Spread of Suicide Bombing

Posted: 12 May 2015

See all articles by Michael C. Horowitz

Michael C. Horowitz

University of Pennsylvania - Department of Political Science

Date Written: May 2015


This article reviews the existing literature, mostly from political science, on suicide bombing. A prominent weapon in the toolkit of violent non-state actors for a generation, suicide bombing generates a significantly larger number of casualties per attack than other uses of force by terrorist groups, insurgents, and others. Scholars tend to agree that no single reason leads individuals to become suicide bombers. Moreover, groups use suicide bombing for strategic reasons - although whether suicide bombing campaigns make groups more likely to achieve their goals is unclear. Scholars continue to disagree about what drives groups to adopt or eschew suicide bombing, including the role of religion. Although groups that are more religious are significantly more likely to adopt suicide bombing, the underlying cause and its relationship to particular religious ideologies (such as Salafi Jihadi movements) versus the structure of religious groups remain matters of contention.

Suggested Citation

Horowitz, Michael C., The Rise and Spread of Suicide Bombing (May 2015). Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 18, pp. 69-84, 2015. Available at SSRN: or

Michael C. Horowitz (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania - Department of Political Science ( email )

Stiteler Hall
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

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