August 02, 2012

What Lone Wolf Terrorists?

Ah, yes, the so-called "lone wolf" terrorist. This type of terrorist is more dangerous because they are harder to detect. Which is why in the waning days of his life, al Qaeda in the Arabian Penninsula's American publicist urged his compatriots to take up arms lone wolf style.

But what if most of these lone wolves weren't so lonely? That's what one study from Prof. Gabriel Weimann of the University of Haifa suggests:

According to Prof. Weimann, most of the “lonely wolves” make contact, share information, and acquire training through the Internet, whether from sites that are linked with terror organizations, from forums supporting such organizations, or from other platforms. In addition to this sort of “regular” activity on the web, social networks provide these individuals with their virtual wolfpack: a virtual community of people who think like them, who share their ideals, and with whom they can consult and share advice. “The virtual community gives the ‘lone wolf’ social environment, support, and moral encouragement,” Prof. Weimann notes.

The researcher presents a number of examples of such terrorists who supposedly acted alone. It was revealed that American officer Nidal Hasan, who shot and killed thirteen American soldiers, had communicated with a known terrorist through the Internet. Arif Uka, a young Bosnian who shot and killed American soldiers in Frankfurt, was a Facebook friend of various known Islamist radicals.

Another known example is the Internet activity that followed Mohamed Merah’s attack killing four Jews in Toulouse a number of months ago. Monitoring the web, Prof. Weimann has observed that immediately after Merah was killed in a police siege, members of Jihadist online forums began praising Merah’s act and encouraged additional acts like it. A Facebook page praising the killings was promptly created and by the time it was closed down with the involvement of the French government, 500 Facebook users had joined it. According to Prof. Weimann, it is these types of forums and activity that must be monitored to locate and identify the next “lone wolf”.

Wait, so you're telling me terrorists use the internet and are on social networking sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter? Who knew?

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 04:24 PM | Comments |