An 1886 Woodblock print of Yamato Takeru dressed as a maidservant, preparing to kill the Kumaso leaders.
Watercolour by an unknown artist from the early 19th century purporting to show three thugs in the process of strangling the traveller: one holds the feet, another the hands, while a third tightens the ligature around the neck
Photo of SouhaBechara
What is an assassin
Definitions of Assassin
Assassin: A way of living; one acting alone or in consort with others to commit
murder, either out of political fervor or religious fanaticism; motivated by desire
to gain power, publicity, or renown for self or organization and/or to cause a
change in the course of the established order and to settle actual or perceived
grievances. (June, D. L. (2008). Introduction to Executive Protection)
1. a murderer, especially one who kills a politically prominent person for
fanatical or monetary reasons.
Contract killing: a professional “hit” for an agreed-upon fee. (Crime Victims: An
Introduction to Victimology Andrew Karmen – 2009)
A form of murder, in which one party hires another party to kill a target
individual or group of people. (James Morton (2005), Gangland. The Contract
“Assassinations are the punctuation of history…”
Secret History of Assassination: The Killers
and Their Paymasters Revealed, Richard
Belfield, Magpie Books, 2008 pg 13
The Old Man
I won’t spend much time on the
history of assassins because there are
some great books out there on the
subject. I just want to point out a few
things. First, the origin of the word
assassin comes from Asasiyun and not
from hash-ishiyun meaning smokers
of hashish as many think the term
“their contemporaries in the Muslim
world would call them hashishiyun, "hashish-smokers"; some
orientalists thought that this was the
origin of the word "assassin", which in
many European languages was more
terrifying yet. ...The truth is different.
According to texts that have come down
to us from Alamut, Hassan-i Sabbah liked
to call his disciples Asasiyun, meaning
people who are faithful to the
Asās, meaning "foundation" of the faith.
This is the word, misunderstood by
foreign travelers that seemed similar to
Amin Maalouf, Russell
Harris, Samarkand, (1998).
Here is the emphasis I would like to put when talking about assassins of
old, being the assassins of Alamut or the ninja’s of Japan. The assassins of Alamut
during the times of the crusades were generally intelligent and well read because
they were required to possess not only knowledge about their enemy, but his or
her culture and native language. They were trained by their masters to disguise
themselves and to sneak into enemy territory to perform the
assassinations, instead of simply attacking their target outright. They dressed up
as merchants or religious men, spending a good deal of time in a city, in order to
get well acquainted with the houses and streets, surroundings, and daily routines
of the victims.
Charles E. Nowell, The Old Man of the Mountain',Speculum, 22 (1947), pp 508
The ninja’s were great at what they
did because they used the same
concepts as the assassins of
Alamut: “The art of blending in.”.
The ninja was “the original man of a
thousand faces”… he was a steelnerved spy who might appear as a
priest one day, a carpenter the next and
an enemy solider on the third.”
(Andrew Adams, Ninja: The
Invisible Assassins (1970) pp 95)
Ninja were people used in secret
ways, and their duties were to go
into the mountains and disguise
themselves as firewood gatherers
to discover and acquire the news
about an enemy's territory... they
were particularly expert at
travelling in disguise.
(Turnbull, Stephen, Ninja AD 1460–
1650 (2003) pp 27)
The Thuggee which comes from the
Hindi word for thief “thag” and is
related to the words deceive
“thugna” and from the Sanskrit
word “sthaga” meaning
cunning, dishonest, he conceals.
The Thuggee killings were done to
honor the Indian god Kali.
Like their counterparts they too
“The Thuggee, also known simply as
Thugs, traveled often in the guise of
traders, pilgrims, and even soldiers
marching to or from service.”
(Conspiracies And Secret Societies:
The Complete Dossier. Brad
Steiger,Sherry Hansen Steiger 2006
Thug Behram (1765–1840) of
the Thugge cult in India, was one
of the world's most prolific killers.
He may have murdered up to 931
victims by strangulation between
1790–1840 with the ceremonial
cloth (or rumal, which
in Hindi means handkerchief), used
by his cult.
(Dash Mike (2005). Thug: The True
Story of India's Murderous Cult.
London: Granta pp.283-9)
What I want you to understand is that the
assassins of old employed a tactic that is still in
use today, and that tactic is blending in with
your target and gathering information. As their
ancient counterparts, assassins still use
disguises and cover stories to get close to their
Look at the two case studies on this tactic.
Target: Pope John Paul II
Weapon: Suicide Bomber
The plan was to assassinate
Pope John Paul II when he
visited the Philippines
during the World Youth
Day 1995 celebrations.
On January 15, 1995, a
suicide bomber dressed up
as a priest, waited while
John Paul II passed in his
motorcade on his way to
the San Carlos Seminary
in Makati City. The
assassin planned to get
close to the Pope, and
detonate the bomb.
Case Study 1
Assassin: Souha Bechara
Target: Antoine Lahad
Souha Bechara left college in 1986
and joined militant activities in
Lebanon. She was given the task of
Consequently, she headed
south, introduced herself to
Lahad's family as an aerobics
instructor to his wife Minerva.
Gradually, she familiarized herself
with the family's members and
visited them continually.
In the evening of the operation, the
17th of November 1988, Lahad's
wife invited Bechara for tea.
Bechara accepted the invitation and
stayed until Lahad's arrival. As she
was packing her belongings and
leaving, Bechara twice shot Lahad
with a 5.45 mm revolver. He was
shot once in the chest and once in
the shoulder, then Bechara threw
the gun away before his body
guards subdued her.
Case Study 2