Lone wolf (terrorism)
A lone wolf or lone-wolf fighter is someone who commits or prepares for, or is suspected of committing or preparing for, violent acts in support of some group, movement, or ideology, but who does so alone, outside of any command structure and without material assistance from any group.
In the U.S. legal context, the lone wolf is associated with the U.S. terror-law FISA, bearing in mind that U.S. terror-law comprises non-violent, as well as violent acts. Moreover, a lone wolf can be so defined on the mere basis of suspicion ("reasonable belief", not actual charges). Probable cause is not required.
Origins of the term
According to the Anti-Defamation League, the term "lone wolf" was popularized by white supremacists Alex Curtis and Tom Metzger in the 1990s. Metzger advocated individual or small-cell underground activity, as opposed to above-ground membership organizations, envisaging "warriors acting alone or in small groups who attacked the government or other targets in 'daily, anonymous acts.'" He referred to these warriors as "lone wolves".
The term "lone wolf" is used by US law enforcement agencies and the media to refer to individuals undertaking violent acts of terrorism outside a command structure. The FBI and San Diego Police's investigation into Curtis' activities was named Operation Lone Wolf, "largely due to Curtis' encouragement of other white supremacists to follow what Curtis refers to as 'lone wolf' activism".
While the lone wolf acts to advance the ideological or philosophical beliefs of an extremist group, they act on their own, without any outside command or direction. The lone wolf's tactics and methods are conceived and directed solely on their own; in many cases, such as the tactics described by Curtis, the lone wolf never even has personal contact with the group they identify with. As such, it is considerably more difficult for counter-terrorism officials to gather intelligence on lone wolves, since they may not come into contact with routine counter-terrorist surveillance.
A recent analysis by Teich - out of the International Institute for Counter Terrorism - show the following five trends in Islamic-motivated lone wolf terrorism in the western world: (1) increased number of countries targeted by lone wolf terrorists; (2) increased number of fatalities and injuries caused by lone wolves; (3) increased success rate of United States law enforcement to apprehend lone wolves before they can carry out their attacks; (4) high prevalence and success rate of loners over Pantucci’s other three types of lone wolf terrorists; (5) increased targeting of military personnel. Teich also found that - consistent with previous research - Islamic-motivated lone wolves tended to experienced personal grievances (loss, divorce, psycho-pathologies, etc.) before being drawn to radical Islam. Radical Islam provided an attractive narrative for these troubled individuals, and helped them to justify lashing out with violence.
In the United States, lone-wolves may present a greater threat than organized groups. According to the Christian Science Monitor, "With the exception of the attacks on the World Trade Center, experts say the major terrorist attacks in the United States have been perpetrated by deranged individuals who were sympathetic to a larger cause – from Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh to the Washington area sniper John Allen Muhammad".
Some groups actively advocate lone wolf actions. Anti-abortion militants The Army of God uses "leaderless resistance" as its organizing principle. According to The New York Times, in news analysis of the Boston Marathon bombings, the Al-Qaeda activist Samir Khan, publishing in Inspire, advocated individual terrorist actions directed at Americans and published detailed recipes online.
List of lone wolf terrorism
Lone wolves in Africa, the Middle East and Asia
- On November 15, 1988, Barend Strydom shot and killed seven black people, and wounded 15 more, in and around Strijdom Square, South Africa. He declared that he was the leader of the White Wolves organisation, which proved to be a figment of his imagination.
- On February 24, 1994, Baruch Goldstein, a former member of the Jewish Defence League and follower of the Kahanist movement, opened fire inside the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, killing 29 people and injuring at least 100.
- On March 19, 2005, Egyptian national Omar Ahmad Abdullah Ali detonated a car bomb outside a theatre filled with Westerners in Doha, Qatar, killing a British director and injuring 12 others. Police believe he was acting alone.
- On August 4, 2005, Eden Natan-Zada, another alleged Kahanist, killed four Israeli Arabs on a bus and wounded 12 before being killed by other passengers. Natan-Zada was a 19-year-old soldier who had deserted his unit after he refused to remove settlers from the Gaza Strip. Less than two weeks later, on August 17, 2005, Asher Weisgan, a 40-year old Israeli bus-driver, shot and killed four Palestinians and injured two others in the West Bank settlement of Shiloh.
- On September 4, 2006, Nabil Ahmad Jaoura, a Jordanian of Palestinian origin, opened fire on tourists at the Roman Amphitheatre in Amman, Jordan. One British tourist died and six others, including five tourists, were injured. Police said he was not connected with any organized group but was angered by Western and Israeli actions in the Middle East.
- On March 6, 2008, Alaa Abu Dhein opened fire on a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem, killing eight and injuring 11 before he himself was shot dead. His family denied he was a member of any militant group, and described him as intensely religious.
- On July 2, 2008, Husam Taysir Dwayat attacked several cars with a front-end loader. He killed three Israelis and injured dozens more before being shot to death. He was not a member of any militant group.
- On 19 August 2010, an individual Uighur was suspected in having planted a bicycle bomb that killed 7 people.
- In January 2011, Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, Pakistan was assassinated by a lone wolf, though supported by a larger base.
Lone wolves in Europe
- During late 1991 and early 1992 in Sweden, right-wing Swiss-German immigrant John Ausonius shot eleven dark-skinned people, killing one.
- In February 1992, RUC Constable Allen Moore shot three Catholic men dead with a shotgun in the Belfast Sinn Fein head office on Falls Road. Moore committed suicide shortly afterwards before arrest.
- Between 1993 and 1997 in Austria, Franz Fuchs engaged in a campaign against foreigners, and organizations and individuals he believed to be friendly to foreigners. He killed four people and injured 15, some seriously, using three improvised explosive devices and five waves of 25 mailbombs in total.
- In April 1999 in London, David Copeland targeted blacks, Asians and gays with nail bombs, killing three and injuring 129. His aim was to start a race war. He was sentenced to at least 50 years and is now in a secure mental hospital.
- On May 6, 2002 in the Netherlands, nine days before elections, Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn was murdered by Volkert van der Graaf, who told that murdered him as he exploited Muslims as "scapegoats" and targeted "the weak members of society" in seeking political power.
- On March 2, 2011 in Germany, Arid Uka shot and killed two United States soldiers and seriously wounded two others in the 2011 Frankfurt Airport shooting. German authorities suspected that this was an Islamist’s attack, which would make it the first deadly act of this kind in Germany.
- On July 22, 2011 in Norway, Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people in two consecutive attacks. First, he killed eight people with a heavy car-bomb placed in the heart of the Norwegian government headquarters in Oslo. An hour later, he appeared at the summer camp of the Worker's Youth League, the youth organization of the Labour Party, at the island of Utøya, 35 kilometers west of Oslo. There were 500 people on the island. Impersonating a police officer, he shot for approximately 90 minutes, killing 69 people.
- In March 2012 in France, Mohammed Merah targeted French soldiers and Jewish civilians during the 2012 Midi-Pyrénées shootings. According to professor Olivier Roy, Merah was a lone terrorist, unconnected with any militant group.
- In May 26, 2013 in La Défense, a man stabbed soldier Cédric Cordier in the throat. Cordier was hospitalized but officials said his throat wound was not life-threatening.
Lone wolves in the United States
- Timothy McVeigh is often given as a classic example of the "lone wolf". McVeigh was convicted and executed for the April 19, 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 people and injured hundreds with a truck bomb. Though McVeigh conceived of, planned and carried out the bombing, he did not act totally alone. Terry Nichols was convicted of conspiring with him, though his involvement was limited to helping mix the fertilizer and other bomb ingredients; McVeigh had threatened to harm him and his family if he did not help.
- Between 1978 and 1995, Theodore Kaczynski, known as the "Unabomber", engaged in a mail bombing campaign that killed three and wounded 23. He threatened to continue the bombings unless his anti-industrial manifesto was published by the New York Times, which acquiesced.
- Between 1996 and 1998, Eric Robert Rudolph engaged in a series of bombings against civilians in the Southern United States, resulting in the deaths of three people and injuries to at least 150 others. His targets included abortion clinics, gay nightclubs, and the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Some people have called him a Christian Identity adherent, a claim Eric flatly denies in his writings.
- On February 23, 1997, Ali Hassan Abu Kamal opened fire in the observation deck of the Empire State Building, killing one and wounding six others before committing suicide.
- On August 10, 1999, Buford O. Furrow, Jr., a member of the white supremacist group Aryan Nations, attacked a Jewish daycare in Los Angeles, injuring five, and subsequently shot dead a Filipino American mail carrier.
- On July 4, 2002, Egyptian-American Hesham Mohamed Hadayet opened fire at an El Al ticket stand at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), killing two.
- On March 3, 2006, Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar drove a Jeep Cherokee into a crowd of students at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, injuring nine people. Press accounts said that he "matches the modern profile of the unaffiliated, lone-wolf terrorist"
- On July 28, 2006, Naveed Afzal Haq, saying "I am a Muslim American, angry at Israel", perpetrated the Seattle Jewish Federation shooting in the Belltown neighborhood of Seattle, killing one woman and wounding five others.
- On May 31, 2009, anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder murdered obstetrician George Tiller.
- On June 1, 2009, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, an American who had converted to Islam opened fire on a United States military recruiting office in Little Rock, Arkansas, known as the 2009 Little Rock recruiting office shooting. Muhammad killed Private William Long and wounded Private Quinton Ezeagwula. Muhammad pled guilty to charges of capital murder, attempted capital murder, and unlawful discharge of a weapon, and was sentenced to life in prison on July 25, 2011.
- On June 10, 2009 James von Brunn fired a weapon into the Washington D.C. Holocaust Museum, resulting in the death of security guard Stephen Tyrone Johns. James von Brunn died while awaiting trial.
- On November 5, 2009, Nidal Malik Hasan shot and killed 13 people in an attack at Fort Hood that wounded 30 others.
- On February 18, 2010, Joseph Andrew Stack III flew a small personal plane into an office complex containing an IRS office in Austin, Texas after posting a manifesto on his website stating his anti-government motives and burning his house. One person other than Stack died; 13 were injured.
- On April 15, 2013 Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev set off two pressure cooker bombs at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon and killed three people.
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