Program on extremism releases report on terror attacks targeting West

GW’s program on extremism found ISIS was involved in the majority of jihadist-motivated terrorist attacks in North America and Europe over the last three years, according to a new report from the project.

The report “Fear Thy Neighbor: Radicalization and Jihadist Attacks in the West,” which the program said was the first analysis of all terrorist attacks targeting Western countries since 2014, identified 51 attacks in eight countries with France and the United States hit the hardest. The attacks resulted in 395 deaths and at least 1,549 injuries.

The United States was hit with 16 attacks resulting in 76 deaths during the three-year span, second only to France in both categories.

“Over the last three years Europe and North America have been hit by an unprecedented wave of terrorist attacks perpetrated by individuals motivated by jihadist ideology,” the study’s authors wrote.

The paper identifies two main causes of the attacks: the military success of groups like ISIS in the Middle East and its large number of online followers in Western countries. These groups have been able to attract a significant following in the West through social media campaigns and “virtual planners,” who are able to recruit followers using online platforms.

Researchers began tallying attacks in June 2014, the same month ISIS declared a “Caliphate” in territory it took over in Iraq and Syria.

The report categorizes attacks as being either directly ordered by ISIS, 8 percent of all attacks, perpetrated by people who had a connection to ISIS or some other group but acted independently, 66 percent of incidents or from individuals with no connection to organized groups, but inspired by a jihadist message, accounting for 26 percent of the attacks.

The vast majority of attackers, 73 percent, are citizens of the country where they carried out an attack. Five percent were refugees or asylum seekers.

Only two out of the 65 perpetrators were female and the most lethal attacks were carried out by people who had experience as foreign fighters, the study concluded.

The report found that people are often radicalized in localized hubs that breed terrorist activity. The authors recommended that counterterrorism responses be as quick and measured as possible to reassure the public of their safety.

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