Research Handbooks in International Law series
Edited by Ben Saul
Chapter 4: Aviation and international terrorism
The attraction of civil aviation as a terrorist target lies not just in the vulnerability of passengers and the global publicity of such attacks, but also in the opportunity to target the national symbol of a state. The events of 11 September 2001 added a further dimension to aviation terrorism, the use of an aircraft itself as a weapon to inflict terror on those on board and on the ground. This, together with the growth in the number of air passengers, global reliance on air travel, and the economic impact of the aviation industry on the global economy, ensures that civil aviation remains a very attractive target. Aviation terrorism has many forms and continues to evolve along with the motives and methods of its perpetrators. These forms include: hijacking civilian aircraft for transportation or financial gain; taking hostages for a financial or political motive; attacks against airports or airport facilities; destroying or sabotaging an aircraft (including through the use of explosive devices on board, and employing man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS) to fire at aircraft; remotely attacking an aircraft’s air navigation system; and using an aircraft as a weapon by flying into a selected target or to disseminate deadly material. The hijacking of aircraft between 1948 and 1960 was mostly perpetrated by refugees and fugitive criminals intent on diverting their flight’s route to a particular destination.
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