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Lone-wolf terrorismWhat drives lone offenders?

By Randy Borum

Published 4 October 2017

Lone offender attacks – sometimes called “lone wolf” attacks – make headlines fairly regularly. It’s not just the single shooter killing dozens and injuring hundreds in Las Vegas, but also shootings in Washington and Texas shopping centers. In Nice, France; Orlando, Florida; and elsewhere, atrocities committed by individuals apparently acting alone have surprised and concerned the public and authorities alike. Because just one person is at the center of the event, these sorts of attacks can seem more puzzling and be harder to explain than, say, bombings or shootings by organized terrorist groups. That also makes them more difficult to detect and prevent. It is not always easy to “make sense” of lone-offender attacks. But by understanding their origins, elements and context, we can avoid misconceptions and more accurately describe the problem. That will be a key to helping detect and prevent these kinds of attacks.

Lone offender attacks – sometimes called “lone wolf” attacks – make headlines fairly regularly. It’s not just the single shooter killing dozens and injuring hundreds in Las Vegas, but also shootings in Washington and Texas shopping centers. In Nice, France; Orlando, Florida; and elsewhere, atrocities committed by individuals apparently acting alone have surprised and concerned the public and authorities alike.

Because just one person is at the center of the event, these sorts of attacks can seem more puzzling and be harder to explain than, say, bombings or shootings by organized terrorist groups. That also makes them more difficult to detect and prevent.

As law enforcement and military efforts attempt to reduce attacks from organized groups, lone offender attacks may become a more prevalent threat. My colleagues and I have worked to understand what we can about these attacks and the individuals who carry them out with the goal of helping to prevent them.

A long history of solo attackers
Although these recent attacks are troubling, the phenomenon of individual attackers acting largely alone is not new. In the late 1800s, anarchists (mainly Russian and European) were calling for individuals to target government, authorities and the bourgeois as a way to bring attention to their cause. They referred to this type of publicity-seeking violence as “propaganda by the deed.” Within a period of just seven years between 1894 and 1901, lone anarchist attackers had assassinated the ruling heads of state in France, Spain, Austria and Italy, and a U.S. president.

What is new is uncertainty about the attackers’ motivations. Some, like the truck driver in Nice, appear to be inspired by terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State group. Others, like most mass shooters, don’t have any obvious political or societal aim, though the attacks themselves do often sow fear. And some individuals will devise an attack and only then invoke an ideology or a “cause” as a justification, as some have suggested of the “last minute” 9-1-1 call by the Orlando nightclub shooter pledging his allegiance to ISIS.

Go to Source – Author: Staff