Over 400 people have been killed due to terror attacks in the West in the past three years. What can we learn, asks Dr Lorenzo Vidino?
Though most Islamist attacks have been in other parts of the world, a surprising number recorded in Europe and North America – more than 50 in total – have put great pressure on the authorities to prevent further casualties.
What do we know about those involved in the attacks – whether the authorities know who they are and who they were working for?
A study of data from the attacks – from the age of the attackers to their immigration status – offers those in charge of national security an insight that could help them formulate the best counter-measures.
Location of the Attacks
There were 52 attacks between December 2014 and early June 2017 that we classified as acts of jihadist terrorism.
This is following the declaration of a “caliphate” in certain territories of Syria and Iraq in June 2014.
The attacks eventually expanded to western countries.
Six were in Europe: The United Kingdom, France, Germany, Belgium, Swede, and Denmark.
Attacks have also been recorded in the United States and Canada.
Regardless of the country, most assaults were in vast towns and urban areas – including London, Paris, Nice, Berlin, Brussels and Orlando. Some of the attacks targeted famous landmarks, such as the Champs-Elysees and the Louvre museum in Paris, and Westminster in London.
Numerous others focused on swarmed spaces, like pedestrians, amusement facilities or transport terminals.
But some terrorists have also hit unexpected locations, Such as an office Christmas party and a church.
How Attacks were Identified
We studied the assaults driven by jihadist ideology, that included violent acts against people and was expected to scare or send a warning to the masses. Other organizations use different definitions.
•Researchers utilized open-source material and meetings with authorities
•It is conceivable that a few assaults did not become obvious, or that entire details are not available
•The research includes the US, Canada and the 28 part conditions of the EU, in addition to Norway and Switzerland
•Attacks propelled by different philosophies -, for example, the murder of Jo Cox – are excluded in this review
The Dead and Injured
A total of 52 attacks caused 403 casualties and left more than 1,600 injured.
The culprits are not included in these numbers.
The 2015 attack on Paris was the deadliest, killing 130 people, including 90 at the Bataclan theatre.
There was also the Nice lorry attack, leaving 86 people dead.
There were many other attacks that left many people dead and others injured.
The death toll reached 370 due to these 10 attacks.
Most of the attacks however, did not cause casualties, with the exclusion of the perpetrators.
The Identity of the Attackers
Although the number of youth being radicalised is alarming, the average age of the attackers – 27 – is not unusually young.
The two youngest were an unnamed boy who attacked a Jewish teacher with a machete in Marseille, and Safia S, a girl who stabbed a police officer. Both were 15 years old.
How Old were the Attackers?
- The youngest attackers were aged 15
- The Average age of attackers is 27
- The oldest age recorded of attacker is 52
Of the five who were still minors, four were in Germany.
The majority of the attackers were in their 20s, about one in four attackers above the age of 30 and three aged 40 or older.
The oldest attacker, Khalid Masood, was 52. He ran over pedestrians with a car on Westminster Bridge and stabbed a police officer to death at the Houses of Parliament.
Only two out of 65 individual perpetrators were female. This is despite reports of women becoming increasingly involved in jihadist activities,
Less than one in five culprits was converted to Islam, with an essentially higher rate in North America than in Europe..
However, those who converted were more likely to have a criminal background and to have been previously convicted.
Overall, most of the jihadists had a criminal background.
The Attackers’ Immigration Status
The connection between terror attacks and migration is a complicated one and has been at the focal point of debates, especially amid the European migrant crisis.
However, there is only a small number of attackers who were illegally in a country or who arrived as refugees.
Seventy five percent were citizens of the country they attacked, with others either being legal residents, or visitors from neighbouring countries.
However, people who were in the West illegally likewise carried out violent attacks.
No less than two of those included in the November 2015 Paris assaults apparently pretended to be refugees to enter Europe through Greece.
Three different people were refuge seekers during the attack, while four were in the country illegally or scheduled for deportation.
The latter group included Uzbek national Rakhmat Akilov, who slaughtered four individuals with a commandeered lorry in Stockholm in April 2017, and Tunisian native Anis Amri, who likewise utilized a lorry to carry out his attack at the Berlin Christmas market.
There is also an instance of “terrorist tourism”, by Egyptian national Abdullah Hamamy, who lived in the United Arab Emirates and assaulted officers at the Louver in February 2017.
Relation to IS
Two of the four most lethal assaults – the November 2015 Paris attacks and the Brussels attacks in 2016 – are believed to be multiple coordinated attacks lead by IS.
They were also believed to be executed in part by former foreign soldiers.
However, the other two most deadly attacks – Orlando in June 2016 and Nice in July 2016 – were independently carried out by people with no connection to a jihadist group.
These scenarios show that terrorist supporters who never made a trip to conflicted zones and who act freely can be as dangerous as a group of well organized extremists.
In general, connections between militants and jihadist groups operating abroad are usually determined easily.
Of the assaults that hit the West since June 2014, less than one in 10 was ordered by the heads of IS.
All things considered, the impact of IS can be clearly observed.
On or before the assault, six out of 10 culprits allied themselves to a jihadist organization, mostly IS – which frequently claims responsibility.
What Has Been Learned so Far
Not surprisingly, given the recurrence of assaults and the number of casualties, jihadist terrorism has gone to the fore of political arguments in the West and is featured globally in the news.
The threat will not be expected die down sooner rather than later, with policymakers, counter-terror authorities and general masses all being made requested to make the necessary actions.
There are enormous effects for local and foreign policy throughout the Western countries.
It is expected that finding out about the assaults and the individuals who executed them will enable all of us to have a more informative discussion regarding which measures to take.
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