Most academic definitions emphasise the combination of violence, politics, sociology and psychology.
The threat of violence is included as well as actual violence.
These searches were performed during January and February 2012.
A search of the printed literature was performed with the assistance of the Charles Sturt University Library using the key words of “terrorism” and “definition”. The command and control of terrorist groups, the recruitment, training, active operations and the target audience can all be located in different countries and so counter-terrorist measures will not be effective unless all nations cooperate in agreeing to the characteristics of terrorist groups and their activities.
Some nations, particularly in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, were unwilling to label groups as terrorists if they sympathised with their aims, because of the perjorative aspects of the label.
The West has also sympathised with groups which have committed terrorist activities.Hoffman, White, Richardson, Bjorgo) which examined 109 definitions and found 22 frequently used “definitional elements” (Table 1).Agreement on definitions of terrorism will assist the research and study which may progress to counter measures for the benefit of democratic governments and society.Walter Laqueur (5) ) uses the simple, broad definition “terrorism is the illegitimate use of force to achieve a political objective by targeting innocent people”.Tore Bjorgo (6) ) states “terrorism is a set of methods of combat rather than an identifiable ideology or movement, and involves premeditated use of violence against (primarily) non-combatants in order to achieve a psychological effect of fear on others than the immediate targets.” Fernando Reinares (cited on p.120 in reference 6) distinguishes three traits that define terrorism for the purpose of academic study.Nonetheless, the UN has struggled to provide a definition that is accepted by all nations.In 2001 it adopted the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings even though they were unable to define the word “terrorist”.Legal Profession The legal profession desires a definition that can be used for the successful prosecution and conviction of accused terrorists.Defence or an appeal by an accused terrorist is easier if the crimes are ambiguously defined.Firstly, it is an act of violence that produces widespread disproportionate emotional reactions such as fear and anxiety which are likely to influence attitudes and behaviour.Secondly, the violence is systemic and rather unpredictable and is usually directed against symbolic targets.