Act: Flew his plane into New York's WTC towers on 9/11
Mohammed Atta was the son of a middle-class lawyer, rich enough to own a holiday home on the Mediterranean coast. Atta spent his youth in Cairo, where he refused to participate in a basketball league because it was organised by the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic fundamentalist organisation. His one sister is a botany professor; the other a doctor.
Atta earned his bachelor's degree in Cairo in 1990, then travelled to Germany to study urban planning at Hamburg Technical University. The turning point in Atta's life was the pilgrimage to Mecca in 1995. A will of his, dated March 6, 1996, shows he had become a committed fundamentalist. "As Atta saw it, his motive was his duty to help end the West's 'humiliation' of the Islamic world," says author Robert Pape. "He became an Islamic fundamentalist after he was already well educated and, as far as we can tell, he did not make the turn out of despair."
Name: Saeed Hotari
Act: Blew himself up in a Tel Aviv disco on June 1, 2001
Born in a poor Palestinian refugee family of Jordan, he moved to Qaliqilya in the West Bank in 1999. Always devout, he and two of his friends were recruited by a Hamas leader who used to frequent the mosque the trio would visit.
His final statement, recorded before his death, spells out why had chosen to become a martyr: "If we do not fight, we will suffer. If we do fight, we will suffer, but so will they." Then Saeed's father had declared, "I am very happy and proud of what my son did and, frankly, am a bit jealous. I wish I had done the bombing."
Name: Hasib Hussain
Act: One of the four bombers in London's 7/7 A tough lad belonging to a working-class family, he'd been in and out of fights with white boys at the local Matthew Murray High School where it mattered more who beat who than who learnt what. He played cricket and football in the streets of his run-down neighbourhood in Beeston. He'd taken to shoplifting, unsuccessfully.
He found his friendships around the local mosque. And here Hasib found direction. He went on the Haj, twice. At the madrassa he became a figure who began to command respect. The one white boys wouldn't mess with. Through the encouragement of his mentor, the widely-respected Mohammed Sadiq Khan, another bomber in London's 7/7, his anger felt ennobled. The face of the white boys he beat up at school became one with the face of a British society that had invaded Iraq to kill fellow Muslims.