Lankford Publishes Widely-Praised Book on Suicide Terrorism, Weighs in on Recent Shootings

Adam Lankford
Dr. Adam Lankford

A recently published book on suicide terrorism by Dr. Adam Lankford, assistant professor in the Department of Criminal Justice, has brought national attention to Lankford’s research in the area.   The Myth of Martyrdom: What Really Drives Suicide Bombers, Rampage Shooters, and Other Self-Destructive Killers, has been hailed a “book to watch for” by The New Yorker and praised by Nature, Scientific American Mind, Foreign Policy, and a number of individual experts in the field.

According to Lankford, conventional wisdom suggests that suicide terrorists are rational political actors, but his book draws on interview transcripts, case studies, suicide notes, martyrdom videos and witness statements to show that these attackers are not just indoctrinated people, but they are also suicidal themselves. This directly contradicts what most scholars have insisted for decades.

After the recent school shooting in Connecticut, Lankford wrote an op-ed piece for The New York Times in which he explained, “Although suicide terrorists may share the same beliefs as the organizations whose propaganda they spout, they are primarily motivated by the desire to kill and be killed — just like most rampage shooters.”

“Although we can only speculate, Adam Lanza’s decision to target elementary school children may have been a calculated attempt to get as much attention as possible,” Lankford suggests—much like suicide bombers who often seek attention and social recognition as well.

Lankford has been featured on CNN Newsroom, MSNBC’s Jansing & Co., BBC World Service Radio, and CBS Radio Los Angeles. Later this month, he will be featured on and MSNBC’s “The Cycle.”

To read Lankford’s New York Times article, visit .

On January 22, Lankford will discuss his findings, participate in a question and answer session, and sign books in Gorgas Library, Room 205 at 4 p.m.