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Mass murder

A mass murder (massacre) involves the murder of large numbers of people either by a state or an individual. The largest mass killings in history have been attempts to exterminate ethnic and other groups; for more about this subject see genocide. This article refers to non-genocidal mass killings.

Although genocide does not necessary require actual killing, only acting on a plan to exterminate an ethnic group, mass murder by definition involves killing a large number of people.

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Mass murder by the state

R. J. Rummel, a political scientist, coined the word democide to cover mass murder by a state. Some killings commonly viewed as genocide are actually democide or mass murder because they involve killing for political or cultural reasons.

Examples include:

  • Killings in Cambodia of the intellectual and cultural elite.
  • Killings in Stalinist Russia of Kulaks, alleged Trotskyists and other alleged enemies of the regime most of whom were ethnic Russians.
  • Civilian populations buried alive with bulldozers by the Japanese in China.
  • The intentional killing of two civilian populations in Japan by the United States with weapons of mass destruction.

Mass murder by terrorists

In recent years, terrorists have performed acts of mass murder as acts of intimidation, and to draw attention to their causes. Examples of major terrorist incidents involving mass murder include:

It should be noted that these are very much American examples; in fact, the USA is relatively untouched by mass terrorist killings (when compared to Northern Ireland, the Basque region of Spain, Chechnya, Indonesia and the like).

Mass murder by individuals

Outside of a political context, the term "mass murder" refers to the killing of several people at the same time. Examples would include shooting several people in the course of a robbery, or setting a crowded nightclub on fire. This is an ambigious term, similar to serial killing and spree killing. The USA Bureau of Justice Statistics defines a mass murder as: "[involving] the murder of four or more victims at one location, within one event."

Mass Murderers

Mass murder in warfare

The wrongful killing of large numbers of civilians or prisoners during war is called a war crime although it may also be genocide if the proper ethnic motivation is present as in the killings which occurred in the breakaway republics of the former Yugoslavia or in the killing of the Pequot in colonial America.

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