The Islamic State has made suicide attacks “a pillar of its insurgency”, deploying them on a scale which only the infamous kamikaze pilots, who flew suicide missions for the Japanese Empire during the Second World War, can rival.
Charlie Winter, an expert on Islamic State’s social media presence, carried out a study on the terror group’s evolving battlefield doctrine for the International Centre for Counter-terrorism at the Hague, reports The Times.
Islamic State has, according to Winter, carried out 300 suicide operations in the battle for Mosul since October 2016, and approximately 1,095 worldwide – a marked change from its previous tactics.
“Adopting an approach that is, tactically speaking, more in line with the kamikaze pilots of Imperial Japan than the terrorists of al-Qaeda in the 2000s, Islamic State has militarised suicide more sustainably than any other non-state actor to date,” claims Winter’s report. “It has made violent self-immolation a pillar of its insurgency.”
The kamikaze, known officially as Tokubetsu Kōgekitai, or Special Attack Units, were named after the “divine wind” which struck and destroyed two Mongol invasion fleets in the 1200s.
Towards the end of the Second World War, the Japanese lacked the fuel necessary to train pilots competent enough to replace their wartime casualties. Conventional bomb runs against American and British ships only had a three per cent chance of success, according to Allied estimates. But the minimally trained kamikaze, taught to turn their aircraft into human-guided missiles, enjoyed a 15 to 20 per cent chance of striking their targets.
Kamikaze were deployed on a massive scale during the Battle of Okinawa, one of the last major engagements of the Second World War prior to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Soviet invasion of Japanese-held Manchuria, Inner Mongolia, and northern Korea.
Every aircraft carrier in the British Pacific Fleet was struck, killing 44 and wounding nearly 100, but their armoured flight decks allowed them to remain operational.
The American fleet, with its wooden-decked carriers, fared much worse, with a U.S. liaison officer commenting, “When a kamikaze hits a U.S. carrier it means six months of repair at Pearl [Harbor]. When a kamikaze hits a Limey carrier it is just a case of, ‘Sweepers, man your brooms’.”