Since 9/11, targeted executions of terrorist leaders have become one of the most important options to face this threat. This controversial practice has been used by the US, Russia, Colombia, Israel and other states.
Its effectiveness is ambiguous, presenting both pros (in particular, deterrence, pressure and disintegration) and cons (retaliation, counterproductive succession, drawbacks in information collection, external disapproval and positive consequences for terrorist organizations). However, apart from their actual outcomes, targeted executions can convey the idea that states are able to respond to terrorism energetically and quickly, thus reassuring their populations.
Moreover, the effectiveness of this practice is connected to the leader’s role, as regards ideological and symbolic guidance and operational direction, and to the terrorist organization’s nature, particularly in relation to its type, age, size and structure.