Countering Lone Actor Terrorism: Data Collection & Analysis
What drives an individual to commit violent extremism? Is the process of radicalization towards violent extremism and terrorism for a lone actor different from group-based radicalization or active recruitment? Can we identify indicators that signal if someone is going down the path of violent extremism, and how can we subsequently prevent and counter lone actor terrorism? Is it really the case that lone actors are “crazy”, “lone” or “lonely”? How “alone” do they act? So-called “lone wolves” have become an increasing concern for governments around Europe, with recent cases such as that of Anders Breivik and the fear of violent extremist attacks by returning foreign fighters to their home countries.
The Countering Lone Actor Terrorism (CLAT) project aims to answer these questions through analysis of data pertaining to plots and cases of European lone actors. It aims to produce conceptual clarity on the subject of lone actor terrorism. The current lack in this regard has had a negative effect on the understanding of the phenomenon, whilst also hindering the gathering of data. This makes it difficult to develop and implement effective policies on countering lone actor terrorism. Several policy briefs will be produced throughout the project and frontline workers and practitioners will be trained in identifying risk indicators and ways to respond to these.
In the first phase of the project, the Consortium members collected data on all perpetrators of lone actor violence within the European Union between 2000 and 2014. The Consortium is now finalising the database with 120 perpetrators of lone actor terrorism coded on more than 70 variables. An analysis paper will be published in which the main findings of the database are presented. The four Consortium partners have divided the analysis of the database into four main areas: plot and target details, leakage, online and political activity and personal variables. Leiden University is focusing on the personal variables, including the analysis of the prevalence of for instance mental health problems and social isolation among the 120 perpetrators of lone actor violence.
Following this analysis paper are four separate policy papers based on the findings. Given our empirical data and analysis, what are the main areas for policy-makers to start addressing the issue of lone actor terrorism? The final product will be two separate practitioner trainings with two toolkits: one focusing on plot details and leakage, and the other one on online and political activity and personal variables.The project kicked-off on 5 September 2014 in London and runs for 18 months. In early 2015, ICCT & Leiden University convened a two-day expert consultation with 30 academics and practitioners to develop a working definition of lone actor terrorism. In March 2015, ISD hosted a follow-up workshop to further define the nature, scope and development of the database. In September, an analysis workshop was organised by Chatham House where the initial findings were presented. This was followed by two workshops in October 2015, one hosted by Chatham House on the policy implications of the findings, and the second one hosted by ISD as part of the Policy Planners’ Network Meeting. Early February 2016, two practitioner workshops will be hosted: one by the ICCT & Leiden University in The Hague and one by RUSI in London.