MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Today, a federal grand jury in Michigan indicted a Nigerian man on charges he tried to destroy a Northwest Airlines' plane on Christmas Day. NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr says the bomber's method is yet another example of an ominous trend.

DANIEL SCHORR: Like Richard Reid before him � the one with the explosive in his sneakers � Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is alive today only because he failed in his mission, which was bringing down an airliner with an explosive concealed in his underclothing. In recent years, the suicide bomber has emerged as the greatest menace to the lives of innocents, a menace more deadly because it's difficult to design a strategy to deal with someone ready, maybe even eager, to face death by his own hand.

Manifestly, martyrdom has become the weapon of choice of the militant bent on jihad. Suicide as a weapon has a long history. There were the Japanese kamikaze pilots of World War II and the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka. In 1983, there were truck-bomb attacks on both the American embassy and the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. Two hundred forty two Americans died in the Marine compound, along with the driver of the truck. In the year 2000, as the U.S. destroyer Cole was refueling in the Yemini harbor of Aden, a small boat laden with explosives approached it and blew a huge hole in the side of the warship, killing 17 sailors and the two suicide bombers.

Truck bombs in a government building in Chechnya, Russia, in 2002, in Casablanca, Morocco, in 2003, the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, Pakistan, in 2008, the London subway and a bus in 2005, the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, and a nightclub in Tel Aviv in 2001. And then the most spectacular suicide venture of all, 9/11, the assault with hijacked airliners against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

And now Humam al-Balawi, the Jordanian physician so trusted that he was admitted to a CIA camp without screening, and who then detonated the explosive on his body, killing seven intelligence officers and a Jordanian agent. The late prime minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, once told me that of all the threats the international community faced from its foes, the suicide assailant was the one for which no defense had been devised. He who is willing to give his life in the name of a cause wields a powerful weapon.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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