April 30, 2013
Source: The daily telegraph
All eyes may be on Africa, but there are fears of a new, unpredictable threat in the west: the so-called “lone wolf”.
This isn’t about a particular country or cause, and some worry it could be a growing trend.
In 2011 Anders Behring Breivik shocked the world with a Norwegian terror rampage. He bombed government buildings in Oslo before going on a shooting spree at a camp held by the country’s Labour Party. The bombings killed eight people, and the shooting left 69 dead.
Breivik was later found to hold various far-right beliefs, including a perception of Islam and Marxism as “the enemy”.
There are fears this kind of attack could happen more often.
In America, Nidal Malik Hasan is set to undergo court martial proceedings this year after being accused of carrying out a mass shooting at the Fort Hood military base in Texas. The shooting, which happened in 2009, left 13 dead and 30 injured.
The Fort Hood attack is regarded by some as terrorism because of Hasan’s alleged radicalisation, with reports he had been emailing Anwar al-Awlaki, a cleric and alleged al-Qaeda recruiter based in Yemen, and monitored for several years as a security threat. The US Department of Defence, however, has referred to it as an act of workplace violence.
Lone wolf attacks could be related to various forms of extremism – for example, Islamism or neo-Nazism – but the danger is that they are hard to track. People operating alone can be harder to follow than a large organisation.
In a recent book, Lone Wolf Terrorism: Understand the Growing Threat, security consultant Jeffrey D Simon argues that lone wolves can be more creative than terrorist groups.
Terrorist breeding ground
He also points out the importance of the internet as a potential breeding ground for terrorists – though this is also an opportunity for counter-terrorism agencies to monitor potential threats.
Britons present their own risks, with a potential rise in British-born terrorists who have trained abroad before returning to the UK.
Last year the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) think tank predicted that terrorists could put their training in countries including Somalia, Yemen or Nigeria to use on UK streets.
In a report, RUSI director-general Michael Clarke wrote: “The threat they pose, so far, is in the possibility that high numbers of such individuals, operating alone and unsupported, albeit in an amateur way, may nevertheless be lucky in a few attempts.
“They are harder to track and their behaviour much harder to predict.”
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