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An Assassination is the targeted killing of a public figure.

Assassinations may be prompted by religious, ideological, political, or military reasons. Additionally, assassins may be motivated by financial gain, revenge, personal public recognition, or mental illness.

Assassination (or targeted killing) may refer to the government-sanctioned killing of opponents or to targeted attacks on high-profile enemy combatants.

In figurative language usage, the word "assassination" may also be used in colloquial speech as a hyperbole, as in the phrase "character assassination", meaning an attempt to impugn another's character, and thus kill ("assassinate") his reputation and credibility.


The term 'Assassin' derives from the Arabic word Hashshashin ( ), literally "takers of hashish", more commonly called The Order of the Assassins. Their actual name is Nizari. They were active in the costal mountains of the Levant, then moved to Alamutmarker by the Caspian Seamarker from the eighth to the fourteenth centuries. This group killed members of the Abbasid and Seljuq élite for political and religious reasons, but mostly targeted the Sunni Muslims.

It is commonly believed that assassins were under the influence of hashish and opium during their killings or during their indoctrination, and that assassin derives from hasishin. There is continued debate within the historical community whether these claims have any merit, as direct evidence from any contemporary source, Nizari or otherwise, is non-existent. Marco Polo and subsequent European visitors to the area received from rivals of the Nizarai, what were to these opponents, derogatory names for the Nizarai Ismaili, and significantly embroidered stories about them. Polo, Henry II, Count of Champagne, William Marsden, an envoy of Frederick Barbarossa, William, Archbishop of Tyre and others following, popularized the names and stories in Europe, oblivious to their origin in factional propaganda.

The earliest known literary use of the term "assassination" is in The Tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare (1605).

Use in history

Ancient to medieval times

Assassination is one of the oldest tools of power politics, dating back at least as far as recorded history. Perhaps the earliest recorded instance is the murder around 586 BC of Gedaliah, described by Jeremiah and lamented by Jews to this day in the Fast of Gedaliah. Philip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great, and Julius Caesar are famous victims. Emperors of Rome often met their end in this way, as did many of the Shia Imams. The practice was also well-known in ancient China. An example of this is Jing Ke's failed assassination of Qin Shi Huang. The ancient Indian military adviser Chanakya wrote about assassinations in detail in his political treatise Arthashastra. In 1192 (28th of April) Conrad of Montferrat was assassinated by two hashishin.

The apocryphal Old Testament story of Judith illustrates how a woman frees the Israelites by tricking and assassinating Holofernes, a war-lord of the rival Assyrians with whom the Israelites were at war.

In the Middle Ages, regicide was rare, but with the Renaissance, tyrannicide—or assassination for personal or political reasons—became more common again. The reigns of French kings Henry III and Henry IV, and William the Silent of the Netherlandsmarker ended with assassination.

In modern history

As the world moved into the modern day, the killing of important people began to become more than a tool in power struggles between rulers themselves, and was also used for political symbolism, such as in the propaganda of the deed. In Russiamarker alone, four emperors were assassinated within less than 200 years: Ivan VI, Peter III, Paul I, and Alexander II.

In the U.S.marker, four presidents, Abraham Lincolnmarker, James Garfieldmarker, William McKinleymarker, and John F. Kennedymarker died at the hands of assassins. There have been at least 20 known attempts on US presidents' lives.

In Europe the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinandmarker by Serbianmarker nationalist insurgent (The Black Hand) is blamed for igniting World War I after a succession of minor conflicts, while belligerents on both sides in World War II used operatives specifically trained for assassination. Reinhard Heydrich was killed by Czech partisanmarker killers, and knowledge from decoded transmissions allowed the U.S. to carry out a targeted attack, killing Japanesemarker Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto while he was travelling by airplane. The Polish Home Army conducted a regular campaign of assassinations against top Nazi German officials in occupied Poland. Adolf Hitler, meanwhile, was almost killed by his own officers, and survived various attempts by other persons and organizations (such as Operation Foxley, though this plan was never put into practice).

During the 1930's and 1940's Stalin's NKVD carried out numerous assassinations outside of its borders, such as the killings of OUN leader Yevhen Konovalets, Ignacy Porecki-Reiss, Fourth International secretary Rudolf Klement, Leon Trotsky and the POUM leadership in Cataloniamarker.

Indiamarker's "Father of the Nation," Mohandas K. Gandhi, was shot to deathmarker on January 30, 1948 by Nathuram Godse.

Cold War and beyond

During the Cold War, there was a dramatic new increase in the number of political assassinations, likely due to the ideological polarization of most of the First and Second worlds, whose adherents were often more than willing to both justify and finance such killings.

Liaquat Ali Khan, the first Prime Minister of Pakistanmarker was assassinated by Saad Akbar, a lone assassin in 1951. Conspiracy theorists believe his conflict with certain members of the Pakistani military (Rawalpindi conspiracy) or suppression of Communists and antagonism towards the Soviet Unionmarker, were potential reasons for his assassination.

The U.S. Senate Select Committee chaired by Senator Frank Church (the Church Committee) reported in 1975 that it had found "concrete evidence of at least eight plots involving the CIA to assassinate Fidel Castro from 1960 to 1965."

Most major powers were not long in repudiating Cold War assassination tactics, though many allege that this was merely a smokescreen for political benefit and that covert and illegal training of assassins continues today, with Russiamarker, Israelmarker, USAmarker, Argentinamarker, Paraguaymarker, Chilemarker and other nations accused of still regularly engaging in such operations. In 1986, U.S. President Ronald Reagan (who survived an assassination attempt himself) ordered the Operation El Dorado Canyon air raid on Libyamarker in which one of the primary targets was the home residence of Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi. Gaddafi escaped unharmed; however, his adopted daughter Hanna was one of the civilian casualties.

In the Philippinesmarker, the assassination of Benigno Aquino, Jr. triggered the eventual downfall of the 20-year autocratic rule of President Ferdinand Marcos. Aquino, a former Senator and a leading figure of the political opposition, was assassinated in 1983 at the Manilamarker International Airport (now the Ninoy Aquino International Airportmarker) upon returning home from exile. His death thrust his widow, Corazon Aquino, into the limelight and, ultimately, the presidency following the peaceful 1986 EDSA Revolution.

After the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the new Islamic government of Iran began an international campaign of assassination that lasted into the 1990s. At least 162 killings in 19 different countries have been linked to the senior leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iranmarker. This campaign came to an end after the Mykonos restaurant assassinations, because a German court publicly implicated senior members of the government and issued arrest warrants for Ali Fallahian, the head of the Iranian Intelligence. Evidence indicates that Fallahian’s personal involvement and individual responsibility for the murders were far more pervasive than his current indictment record represents.

On August 17, 1988 President of Pakistanmarker Gen. M. Zia ul Haq died along with his staff and the American Ambassador to Pakistan when his C-130 transport plane exploded in mid-air after taking off from Bahawalpurmarker because of an on-board bomb. The CIA, KGB and Indian secret service RAW all have been implicated by various conspiracy theorists.

Various dictators around the world, such as Saddam Hussein, have also used assassination to remove individual opponents, or to terrorize troublesome population groups. In return, in post-Saddam Iraqmarker, the Shiite-dominated government has used death squads to perform countless extrajudicial executions of radical Sunni Iraqis, with some alleging that the death squads were trained by the U.S.

In Indiamarker, Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi (neither of whom were related to Mohandas Gandhi, who was assassinated in 1948), were assassinated in 1984 and 1991. The assassinations were linked to separatist movements in Punjabmarker and northern Sri Lankamarker, respectively.

In Israelmarker, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated on November 4, 1995. Yigal Amir confessed and was convicted of the crime. Many questions were subsequently raised about the actual cause of and rationale for his death.

Israeli tourists minister Rehavam Ze'evi was also assassinated by a Palestinian assassin named Hamdi Quran in 2001

In Lebanonmarker, the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on February 14, 2005, prompted an investigation by the United Nations. The suggestions in the resulting Mehlis report, that there was Syrianmarker involvement, prompted the Cedar Revolution which drove Syrian troops out of Lebanon.

In Pakistanmarker, former prime minister and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in 2007marker, while in the process of running for re-election. Bhutto's assassination drew unanimous condemnation from the international community.

In Guinea Bissaumarker, President João Bernardo Vieira was assassinated in the early hours of Monday 2 March 2009 in the capital, Bissaumarker. Unlike typical assassinations his death was not swift; first surviving an explosion at the Presidential Villa before being shot and wounded and finally butchered with machetes. His assassination was carried out by renegade soldiers who were apparently revenging the prior assassination of General Tagme Na Waie, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Guinea Bissau, who had been killed in a bomb explosion the day before.

In 2002, the George W. Bush Administration prepared a list of "terrorist leaders" the CIA is authorized to assassinate, if capture is impractical and civilian casualties can be kept to an acceptable number. The list includes key al-Qa'ida leaders like Osama bin Laden and his chief deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, as well as other principal figures from al-Qa'ida and affiliated groups. This list is called the "high value target list". The US president is not legally required to approve each name added to the list, nor is the CIA required to obtain presidential approval for specific attacks, although the president is kept well informed about operations.

President Obama's CIA Director Leon Panetta stated that Special Activities Division efforts in Pakistan have been "the most effective weapon" against senior al-Qa'ida leadership.

On 14 July 2009, several newspapers reported that CIA director Leon Panetta was briefed on a CIA program that had not been briefed to the oversight committees in Congress. Panetta cancelled the initiative and reported it to Congress and the President. The program consisted of teams of Special Activities Division paramilitary officers organized to execute targeted assassination operations against al-Qa'ida operatives around the world in any country. According to the Los Angeles Times, DCIA Panetta "has not ruled out reviving the program". There is some question as to whether former Vice President Richard Cheney instructed the CIA not to inform Congress. Per senior intelligence officers, this program was an attempt to avoid the civilian casualties that can occur during Predator drone strikes using Hellfire missiles.

On July 22, 2009, National Public Radio reported that U.S. officials believe Saad bin Laden, a son of Osama bin Laden, was assassinated by a CIA strike in Pakistan. Saad bin Laden spent years under house arrest in Iran before traveling last year to Pakistan, according to former National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell. It's believed he was killed sometime this year. A senior U.S. counterterrorism said U.S. intelligence agencies are "80 to 85 percent" certain that Saad bin Laden is dead.

Further motivations

As military doctrine

Assassination for military purposes has long been espoused - Sun Tzu, writing around 500 BC, argued in favor of using assassination in his book The Art of War . Nearly 2000 years later Machiavelli also argued assassination could be useful in his book The Prince. In medieval times, an army and even a nation might be based upon and around a particularly strong, canny or charismatic leader, whose loss could paralyze the ability of both to make war. However, in modern warfare a soldier's mindset is generally considered to surround ideals far more than specific leaders, while command structures are more flexible in replacing officer losses. While the death of a popular or successful leader often has a detrimental effect on morale, the organisational system and the belief in a specific cause is usually strong enough to enable continued warfare.

There is also the risk that the target could be replaced by an even more competent leader or that such a killing (or a failed attempt) will "martyr" a leader and support his cause (by showing the moral ruthlessness of the assassins). Faced with particularly brilliant leaders, this possibility has in various instances been risked, such as in the attempts to kill the Athenian Alcibiades during the Peloponnesian War. There are a number of additional examples from World War II which show how assassination was used as a military tool at both tactical and strategic levels:

  • The American interception of General Isoroku Yamamoto's airplane during World War II, after his travel route had been decrypted.

  • The American perception that Skorzeny's commandos were planning to assassinate Eisenhower during the Battle of the Bulge played havoc with Eisenhower's personal plans for some time, though it did not affect the battle itself. Skorzeny later denied in an interview with The New York Times that he had ever intended to assassinate Eisenhower during Operation Greif and he said that he could prove it.

  • There was a planned British commando raid to capture or kill the German General Erwin Rommel (also known as "The Desert Fox").

Use of assassination has continued in more recent conflicts:

  • During the Vietnam War, partly in response to Viet Cong assassinations of government leaders, the USAmarker engaged in the Phoenix Program to assassinate Viet Cong leaders and sympathizers, and killed between 6,000 and 41,000 persons, with official 'targets' of 1,800 per month.

  • During World War II, underground factions sympathizing with the Allies were known to assassinate rival underground leaders to ensure their chances of governing their nation upon liberation from the Axis, as opposed to their rivals. Naturally, the reason given to the assassin would be that the rival leader was an Axis sympathizer.

  • In the Global War on Terrorism, American special operations forces and intelligence agencies employed manhunting operations against key opponents and Al Qaeda terrorist leaders.

As tool of insurgents

Insurgent groups have often employed assassination as a tool to further their causes. Assassinations provide several functions for such groups, namely the removal of specific enemies and as propaganda tools to focus the attention of media and politics on their cause.

The Irish Republican Army guerrillas of 1919–1921 assassinated many RIC Police Intelligence officers during the Irish War of Independence. Michael Collins set up a special unit - the Squad - for this purpose, which had the effect of intimidating many policemen into resigning from the force. The Squad was headed up by the infamous Bevis Pole. The Squad's activities peaked with the assassination of 14 British agents in Dublinmarker on Bloody Sunday in 1920.

This tactic was used again by the Provisional IRA during the Troubles in Northern Irelandmarker (1969-present). Assassination of RUC officers and politicians was one of a number of methods used in the Provisional IRA campaign 1969-1997. The IRA also attempted to assassinate British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher by bombing the Conservative Party Conference in a Brightonmarker hotel. Loyalist paramilitaries retaliated by killing Catholics at random and assassinating Irish nationalist politicians.

Basque terrorists ETA in Spainmarker have assassinated many security and political figures since the late 1960s, notably Luis Carrero Blanco in 1973. Since the early 1990s, they have also targeted academics, journalists and local politicians who publicly disagreed with them, meaning that many needed armed police bodyguards.

The Red Brigades in Italymarker carried out assassinations of political figures, as to a lesser extent, did the Red Army Faction in Germanymarker in the 1970s and 1980s.

Middle Eastern groups, such as the PLO and Hezbollah, have all engaged in assassinations, though the higher intensity of armed conflict in the region compared to western Europe means that many of their actions are either better characterized as guerrilla operations or as random attacks - especially the technique of suicide bombs.

In the Vietnam War, assassinations were routinely carried out by communist insurgents against government officials and individual civilians deemed to offend or rival the revolutionary movement. Such attacks, along with widespread military activity by insurgent bands, almost brought the Diem regime to collapse before the US intervention.

For money or gain

Individually, too, people have often found reasons to arrange the deaths of others through paid intermediaries. One who kills with no political motive or group loyalty, only for money, is known as a hitman, or contract killer. Note that by the definition accepted above, while such a killer is not, strictly speaking, an assassin, if the killing is ordered and financed towards a political end, then that killing must rightly be termed an assassination, and the hitman an assassin by extension.

Entire organizations have sometimes specialized in assassination as one of their services, to be gained for the right price. Besides the original hashshashin, the ninja clans of Japanmarker were rumored to perform assassinations, though it can be pointed out that most of what was ever known about the ninja was rumor and hearsay.

In the United Statesmarker, Murder, Inc., an organization partnered to the Mafia, was formed for the sole purpose of performing assassinations for organized crime. In Russiamarker, the vory (thieves), Russian organised crime syndicates, are often known to provide assassinations for the right price, as well as engaging in it themselves for their own purposes. A professional hitman is called "cleaner" in Russia; he is used to clean away the target. The Finnish as well as the Swedish underworld uses the word "torpedo" for a contract killer.

Targeted killing

Nils Melzer defines targeted killing as "the use of lethal force attributable to a subject of international law with the intent, premeditation and deliberation to kill individually selected persons who are not in the physical custody of those targeting them". The concept and term "targeted killing" has been adopted by a large part of the legal doctrine, the media and international organizations such as the United Nations.

The use of assassinations for political or military reasons by sovereign states is an extremely contentious subject, with opinions ranging from people considering it a legitimate form of defense, especially against non-state actors like terror groups, to people calling targeted killings state terrorism itself. In addition, challegenes arise when one considers targeted killing in the context of both international humanitarian law and international human rights law. Both those for and against targeted killings are also often faced with accusations of being clearly partisan to one side of the particular struggle discussed.

  • Pro: Various groups and individuals have supported assassinations such as those undertaken by Israel against opposed terror groups, claiming that the killing of people like Sheikh Ahmed Yassin is justified due to the fact that people like him provide "both religious and political cover" (for terrorist groups to operate), and that the fact that they may not have been physically involved in such crimes does not reduce their role. Arguing that the killings may produce leadership vacuums and disorganise their organisations. They also oppose the use of the term assassination, as it denotes murder, where targeting such leaders is seen as a move in self-defence, and thus killing, but not a crime.. They argue that there is evidence that target killing has been salutary in reducing the effectiveness of terrorist attacks. In Israel after adopting a policy of targeted killings deaths resulting from terrorist attacks by HAMAS plunged from a high of 75 in 2001, to 21 in 2005.. Some argue that even if the killing has little effect on the number and severity of terrorist attacks, targeted killing should be continued for 'retribution and revenge'.

  • Con: Criticism of targeted killings focuses on a number of aspects, from being claimed to be against international law to being destabilising to local situations and thus causing more violence, an opinion also held by such intermediaries as Álvaro de Soto, former UN Middle East peace envoy. Criticism often also focuses on the murder of innocent victims of the more heavy-handed or failed targeted killings, in which civilians are often murdered in large numbers.

Targeted killings are also sometimes called "extrajudicial punishment", as some states require some form of judicial trial in absentia before such an undertaking.


A major study about assassination attempts in the US in the second half of the 20th century came to the conclusion that most prospective assassins spend copious amounts of time planning and preparing for their attempts. Assassinations are thus rarely a case of 'impulsive' action.

However, about 25% of the actual attackers were found to be delusional, a figure that rose to 60% with 'near-lethal approachers' (people apprehended before reaching their target). This incidentally shows that while mental instability plays a role in many modern-age assassinations, the more delusional attackers are less likely to succeed in their attempt. The report also found that around two thirds of the attackers had previously been arrested for (not necessarily related) offenses, that around 44% had a history of serious depression, and that 39% had a history of substance abuse.


Ancient methods

It seems likely that the first assassinations would have been direct and simple: stabbing, strangling or bludgeoning. Substantial planning or coordination would rarely have been involved, as tribal groups were too small, and the connection to the leaders too close. As civilization took root, however, leaders began to have greater importance, and become more detached from the groups they ruled. This would have brought planning, subterfuge and weapons into successful assassination plans.

The key technique was likely infiltration, with the actual assassination by stabbing, smothering or strangulation. Poisons also started to be used in many forms. Death cap mushrooms and similar plants became a traditional choice of assassins especially if they could not be perceived as poisonous by taste, and the symptoms of the poisoning did not show until after some time.

In ancient Rome, paid mobs were sometimes used to beat political enemies to death.

Modern methods

With the advent of effective ranged weaponry, and later firearms, the position of an assassination target was more precarious. Bodyguards were no longer enough to hold back determined killers, who no longer needed to directly engage or even subvert the guard to kill the leader in question. Moreover, the engagement of targets at greater distance dramatically increased the chances for an assassin's survival. The Regent Moray of Scotland was the first prominent figure to be assassinated by a firearm in 1570, and the first head of state was William the Silent of the Netherlandsmarker in 1584.

Gunpowder and other explosives also allowed the use of bombs or even greater concentrations of explosives for deeds requiring a larger touch; for an example, the Gunpowder Plot could have 'assassinated' almost a thousand people had it not been foiled.

Explosives, especially the car bomb, become far more common in modern history, with grenades and remote-triggered landmines also used, especially in the Middle East and Balkans (the initial attempt on Archduke Franz Ferdinand's life was with a grenade). With heavy weapons, the rocket propelled grenade (RPG) has become a useful tool given the popularity of armored cars (discussed below), while Israeli forces have pioneered the use of aircraft-mounted missiles for assassination, as well as the innovative use of explosive devices.

A sniper with a precision rifle is often used in fictional assassinations. However, there are certain difficulties associated with long-range shooting, including finding a hidden shooting position with a clear line-of-sight, detailed advance knowledge of the intended victim's travel plans, the ability to identify the target at long range, and the ability to score a first-round lethal hit at long range, usually measured in hundreds of meters. A dedicated sniper rifle is also expensive, often costing thousands of dollars because of the high level of precision machining and hand-finishing required to achieve extreme accuracy.

Despite their comparative disadvantages, handguns are more easily concealable, and consequentially much more commonly used than rifles. Of 74 principal incidents evaluated in a major study about assassination attempts in the US in the second half of the 20th century, 51% were undertaken by a handgun, 30% with a rifle or shotgun, while 15% of the attempts used knives and 8% explosives (usage of multiple weapons/methods was reported in 16% of all cases).

In the case of state-sponsored assassination, poisoning offers the greatest level of deniability (the allegations are rarely proven ). Georgi Markov, a Bulgarianmarker dissident was assassinated by ricin poisoning. A tiny pellet containing the poison was injected into his leg through a specially designed umbrella. Widespread allegations involving the Bulgarian government and KGBmarker have not led to any legal results. However, it was learned that after fall of the USSR, the KGB had developed an umbrella that could inject ricin pellets into a victim, and two former KGB agents who defected said the agency assisted in the murder. The CIA has allegedly made several attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro, many of the schemes involving poisoning his milkshakes. In the late 1950's, KGB assassin Bohdan Stashynsky killed Ukrainian nationalist leaders Lev Rebet and Stepan Bandera with a spray gun that fired a jet of poison gas from a crushed cyanide ampule, making their deaths look like heart attacks. A 2006 case in the UKmarker concerned the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko who was given a lethal dose of radioactive polonium-210, possibly passed to him in aerosol form sprayed directly onto his food. Litvinenko, a former KGB agent, had been granted asylum in the UK in 2000 after citing persecution in Russiamarker. Shortly before his death he issued a statement accusing then-President of Russia Vladimir Putin of involvement in his assassination. President Putin denies he had any part in Litvinenko's death.

James Bell proposed "Assasination Politics" both as a political idea and as a logical consequence of anonymous cash. Essentially anonymous contributors fund those who can predict the time and manner of a given person's death; the "predictor" is also paid anonymously.


Early forms

One of the earliest forms of defense against assassins was employing bodyguards. Bodyguards act as a shield for the potential target, keeping lookout for potential attackers (sometimes in advance, for example on a parade route), and literally putting themselves 'in harm's way'--both by simple presence, showing that physical force is available to protect the target, and by shielding the target during any attack. In order to neutralize any attacker, bodyguards are typically armed as much as permitted by legal and practical concerns.

This bodyguard function was often executed by the leader's most loyal warriors, and was extremely effective throughout most of early human history, leading assassins to attempt stealthy means, such as poison (which risk was answered by having another person taste the leader's food first).

Another notable measure is the use of a body double, a person who looks like the leader and who pretends to be the leader to draw attention away from the intended target.

Notable examples of bodyguards include the Roman Praetorian Guard or the Ottoman Janissaries--although, in both cases, the protectors sometimes became assassins themselves, exploiting their power to make the head of state a virtual hostage or killing the very leaders they were supposed to protect. The fidelity of individual bodyguards is an important question as well, especially for leaders who oversee states with strong ethnic or religious divisions. Failure to realize such divided loyalties led to the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, assassinated by two Sikh bodyguards in 1984.

Modern strategies

With the advent of gunpowder, ranged assassination (via bombs or firearms) became possible. One of the first reactions was to simply increase the guard, creating what at times might seem a small army trailing every leader; another was to begin clearing large areas whenever a leader was present, to the point where entire sections of a city might be shut down.

As the 20th century dawned, the prevalence of assassins and their capabilities skyrocketed, and so did measures to protect against them. For the first time, armored car or armored limousines were put into service for safer transport, with modern versions rendering them virtually invulnerable to small arms fire and smaller bombs and mines. Bulletproof vests also began to be used, though they were of limited utility, restricting movement and leaving the head unprotected - as such they tended to be worn only during high-profile public events if at all.

Access to famous persons, too, became more and more restrictive; potential visitors would be forced through numerous different checks before being granted access to the official in question, and as communication became better and information technology more prevalent, it has become all but impossible for a would-be killer to get close enough to the personage at work or in private life to effect an attempt on his or her life, especially given the common use of metal and bomb detector. This is, of course, assuming that the assassin does not decide to simply use his or her bare hands.

Most modern assassinations have been committed either during a public performance or during transport, both because of weaker security and security lapses, such as with US President John F. Kennedy and former Pakistanimarker Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, or as part of coups d'état where security is either overwhelmed or completely removed, such as with Patrice Lumumba and likely Salvador Allende.

The methods used for protection by famous people have sometimes evoked negative reactions by the public, with some resenting the separation from their officials or major figures. One example might be traveling in a car protected by a bubble of clear bulletproof glass, such as the Popemobile of Pope John Paul II (built following an attempt at his life). Politicians themselves often resent this need for separation - which has at times caused tragedy when they sent their bodyguards from their side for personal or publicity reasons, as U.S. President William McKinley did during the public reception at which he was assassinated.

Other potential targets go into seclusion, and are rarely heard from or seen in public, such as writer Salman Rushdie. A related form of protection is the use of body doubles, a person built similar to the person he is expected to impersonate. These persons are then made up, as well as in some cases altered to look like the target, with the body double then taking the place of the person in high risk situations. According to Joe R. Reeder, Under Secretary of the Army from 1993–1997 writing in Fox News, Fidel Castro had also used body doubles, though no details were specified.

See also


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