Pantucci (2011) lone wolf studies

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  • 1.Developments in Radicalisationand Political ViolenceA Typology of LoneWolves: PreliminaryAnalysis of Lone IslamistTerroristsRaffaello PantucciMarch 2011

2. 1Developments in Radicalisation Summaryand Political Violence The troublesome question of how and whether to considerDevelopments in Radicalisation and Political Violencewhat are commonly referred to as Lone Wolf terrorists withinis a series of papers published by the International Centrethe broader roster of terrorist groups is something that hasfor the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR). regularly confounded security analysts for a variety ofIt features papers by leading experts, providing reviews ofreasons. This article attempts to create some sort ofexisting knowledge and sources and/or novel argumentstypology to start to define the group, with specific referenceand insights which are likely to advance our understanding to the instances of Lone Wolves (or Lone Wolf Packs, anof radicalisation and political violence. The papers are written admittedly paradoxical choice of words that is defined in thein plain English. Authors are encouraged to spell out policy article as small, isolated groups of individuals involved inimplications where appropriate.terrorism) who claim to adhere to an extremist Islamist ideology. The article offers four subsets to the definition,Editors drawing upon a detailed analysis of a variety of different plotsProf. Harvey Rubin in Europe and North America: Loner, Lone Wolf, Lone WolfUniversity of Pennsylvania Pack, and Lone Attacker. The purpose of the article is to offerDr John Bew some preliminary thoughts on the issue of Lone Wolves, andICSR, Kings College London start a process towards deeper understanding and closerEditorial Assistants analysis of the phenomenon. This is of particular salienceKatie Rothmangiven the frequency with which security analysts cite theAlexander Meleagrou-Hitchens phenomenon as a threat and the increasing way in whichICSR, Kings College LondonAl Qaeda ideologues refer to it.Editorial BoardProf. Sir Lawrence FreedmanKings College LondonDr. Boaz GanorInterdisciplinary Center HerzliyaDr. Peter NeumannKings College LondonDr Hasan Al MomaniJordan Institute of DiplomacyContactAll papers can be downloaded free of charge at To order hardcopies, please write to [email protected] all matters related to the paper series, please write to:ICSRKings College London138142 StrandLondon WC2R 1HHUnited Kingdom ICSR 2011 3. 2 3About the AuthorRaffaello Pantucci is an Associate Fellow at the International A Typology of LoneCentre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR). He holds a BAfrom the University of Manchester in Literature and an MA Wolves: Preliminaryfrom Kings College London in War Studies. He has workedat think tanks in Washington (the Center for Strategic and Analysis of LoneInternational Studies, CSIS), London (International Institutefor Strategic Studies, IISS), and Shanghai (Shanghai Academyof Social Sciences, SASS). He is a widely published author Islamist Terroristswhose work focuses on European security, counter-terrorismand radicalisation, his writing has featured in suchpublications as the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Its the lone-wolf strategy that I think we have toBaltimore Sun, Washington Times, European Voice, pay attention to as the main threat to this country.Guardian, and magazines like the New Statesman,Leon Panetta, CIA Director, February 2010HSToday (an American magazine dealing with homelandsecurity issues) and Janes Intelligence Review. He has also The phenomenon of lone individuals involved in terrorismbeen published in academic outlets like Democratization, is not new, nor is the phenomenon of lone individualsEuropes World, Perspectives on Terrorism, RUSI Journal, inspiring public terror through carrying out an act of massSAIS Review, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Survival, andmurder for their own reasons: the two are in fact sometimesTerrorism and Political Violence and writes regularly for theindistinguishable. However, with the growth of the Al QaedaJamestown Foundations Terrorism Monitor. Much of hisideology (here also described as Al Qaedism/Al Qaedist) thatwriting can be found at: http://www.raffaellopantucci.comseems able to superimpose a violent supremacist ideology upon a wide variety of grievances, there is a growing sense of concern at the possible confluence of the two phenomena and the potential risk this might create. In other words, Al Qaedas ability to provide a persuasive anti-establishment ideology with transnational appeal, alongside the easy accessibility of its narrative and potential operational support through the internet, makes it very easy for an alienated loner to both feel he is a part of the group, as well as participate. Given the increasing ease with which individuals can build viable devices of varying yields using readily available items to attempt terrorist attacks, it seems as though this group deserves more attention. Both due to the increased threat that might be posed by such an individual due to their enhanced potential capacity, but also as it increasingly seems as though Al Qaeda and affiliated movements are attempting 4. 4 5to co-opt the notion of the Lone Attacker into their notiondynamics and collective socialization to explainof a borderless idea.1 individual pathways into terrorism.6 This element can also complicate matters in countries where there is aSurprisingly, however, there has been little research into tendency towards judiciaries being sceptical of convictingdefining the strategic potential of this phenomenon, or much individuals for terrorism.7 In the authors mind, this point isin-depth analysis of the specific phenomenon of Loneraccentuated by the difficulties in discerning what plots meritterrorism as it exists as a sub-set of violent Islamist terrorism. inclusion under such a profile. Lone assailants sometimesWhile researching this article, the author was surprised toappear to be troubled by psychological issues that can seemfind very little research on the topic.2 There have been to separate them out from the broader dataset of rationalnumerous different attempts to develop a terminology toindividuals who become involved in jihadist terrorism. For thedefine the threat: Christopher Hewitt and Harvey Kushner counter-terrorism community, the occurrence of mental illnessseparately deploy the term freelance terrorism,3 while (or at least an acute social awkwardness) has accentuatedpolemicist Daniel Pipes describes such individual casesthis problem, since it suggests that this issue might simplyas sudden jihad syndrome.4 Drawing on interviews withbe a mental health and policing problem distinct from anspecialists at the National Counterterrorism Center in organised terrorist threat. This is not to say that all loneNorthern Virginia, U.S., reporter David Ignatius revealedwolves are mentally ill, but when one compares the instancethat for analysts there, my doomsday scenario, aside from of mental health issues amongst the roster of individualsweapons of mass destruction, is personalized jihad.5 Theinvolved in organised terrorism (where it is very low) to that ofmajority of analysts, however, simply describe the group asLone Wolves (where it is higher than average), it can appearloners, lone wolves, or lone attackers clustering them to be a defining factor.8 As Marc Sageman put it in responsein a separate a question during a conference in London in July 2010, there are two kinds of Lone Wolves, real lone wolves andThe reasons for this lack of analysis are complex. In Ramonmass murderers according to Sagemans analysis the realSpaajis mind, the reason is that terrorism is commonly lone wolves are usually part of a virtual community, while theviewed as essentially a collective, organized activity and,mass murderers have their own personal insane ideology.9as a consequence, scholars focus predominantly on groupBut from an outside perspective, the difference between the two can be quite hard to distinguish.1This notion was raised in the January 2011 edition of Inspire magazine published by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The article highlightedThis can create a separate community for counter-terrorism the respective attempted loner attacks by Roshonara Choudhry and Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly and offered that their attempts were part of a globalised analysts, who will look at the Lone Wolf category as simply insurgency and borderless idea that Al Qaeda was trying to promote. being one that they will encounter post-fact and that is by Muhammad al-Sanaani, Roshonara and Taimour: followers of the borderless its nature almost impossible to predict and prevent. The loyalty, Inspire, Winter 1431, January 20102A number of prominent authors and analysts touch upon the phenomenon6 Ramon Spaaji, Op.Cit. in their writings, and a comprehensive review of available material is provided 7 The example that was cited to the author was in Norway, where prosecutors in Lone Wolf Terrorism (COT, Instituut voor Veiligheids en Crisismanagement,find themselves needing to prove the existence of more than one plotter to 6 July, 2007). More recently, Ramon Spaaji, The Enigma of Lone Wolfcross the threshold of guilt required for a sound conviction for terrorist acts. Terrorism: An Assessment, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, vol.33, no.9, 8 As the abovementioned Dutch report highlights, the majority of those they September 2010, pp. 854-870 provides an updated overview. But to this include in their dataset of Lone Wolves demonstrate some level of mental authors knowledge a comprehensive global categorisation of the phenomenonhealth troubles it should be emphasised, however, that their dataset expands appears to be absent from the canon at this point.far beyond the borders of Islamist motivation that is included in this paper.3Both are referred to in the in Lone Wolf Terrorism