On a list of history's most notorious assassins, alongside John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald and Gavrilo Princip, the name Thenmozhi Rajaratnam would probably draw mostly blank stares. But in her way, the Tamil Tiger terrorist -- who blew up herself, the Indian leader Rajiv Gandhi and 13 others in May 1991 -- has perhaps had the largest lasting influence.
Since that terrible day, women are known to have carried out at least 185 suicide attacks, killing 2,130 people and wounding nearly 5,000 others. According to the University of Chicago's Project on Security and Terrorism, a vast majority have been related to five conflicts: the Sri Lankan civil war that ended in 2009; the fight against the Russian military in Chechnya; the insurgency following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq; the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; and, most recently, the Boko Haram terrorist movement in West Africa.
This week, the New York Times shed new light on that last struggle, profiling Rahila Amos, 47, a Nigerian Christian who says she was abducted by the Islamist rebels and forced to train for a suicide attack.