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Summary: The Challenge of Terrorism

Dirk Freudenberg

Highly industrialised economic nations, such as the Federal Republic of Germany, have a large potential of critical infrastructure, whose obstruction, failure, partial or complete destruction may lead to massive interferences with public and private life, directly as well as indirectly. Technological terrorism, and particularly nuclear terrorism, put a major threat to modern civilisation.

Not until 1995, when the Aum sect attempted assassination on the subway of Tokyo, did non-government organisations appear with weapons of mass destruction, but since the mid 1970ies there have been clues that both single persons and groups, both in the USA and in Europe, have tried to come into possession of weapons of mass destruction. On closer inspection of possible actors, however, one must take into consideration that, as a rule, they cannot be traced back to responsible nations any longer.

Since the events of 11th September 2001 there has been a tendency to classify terrorist attacks as "armed attacks” as defined by article 51 of the UN Charta. At first, this classification permits resorting to collective self defence to the attacked state, at the same time representing terrorism’s big step forward from the level of political violent crime to the international law level of an armed conflict, including corresponding wide-ranging consequences.

At the moment there exists no consistent definition of the term "terrorism”, neither within the framework of the UN nor on the scientific level. Nevertheless, concrete judicial consequences are attached to the existence of terrorism, starting with perpetration of particular offences (e.g. hijacking, kidnapping), or impairment of certain circles (e.g. diplomats). According to both internal and international law, terrorism is any illegal criminal conduct of individuals as well as of a group of individuals, subjectively aiming at (socio)political goals or changes by means of spreading fear.

The decisive reference point for choosing means and methods of terrorism is not a question of law, but of effectiveness and availability of resources, and whether the tactical-operational procedure will be successful or not. Therefore, in order to beat back terrorism, it is essential to establish a complex management of dangers, taking into account the enormous progress made by science, research, and technology, especially in the fields of information and communications technology as well as of detection and analysis procedures.

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Eigentümer und Herausgeber: Bundesministerium für Landesverteidigung | Roßauer Lände 1, 1090 Wien
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