The modem terrorist’s bomb still fulfils the same function as the crude device of ‘the Professor’: it is used to kill, or threaten to kill, and thereby destroy the economic and social life of a country, to instil fear; in fact, to terrorise. But the bombs themselves, their mechanisms and their explosives have become far more efficient. They are easier to make, safer to handle, can be made much smaller, and can be triggered by a variety of ingenious methods, thus enabling them to be used in circumstances which were out of reach of nineteenth-century terrorists. Terrorists of that period could derail a train but they did not have at their mercy Jumbo jets carrying 400 people at boo miles an hour 35,000 feet above the ground. The derailing of a train could kill a number of people but when an airliner is blown out of the sky everybody dies. So not only are today’s bombs more efficient, they are also capable, because of the development of mass air travel, of causing far greater losses in human and material terms and of instilling a maximum of fear. It is this potential which makes the aerial hijacker’s slab of plastic explosive such a powerful weapon.
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