The study on 'lone wolf' terrorists will be presented at the International Homeland Security Forum this week
Findings from a new study being presented at the International Homeland Security Forum, led by the Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan and the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, shed light on the “lone wolf” phenomenon and the psychological and sociological profile of attackers in the recent wave of terrorism over the past year and a half.
The study, conducted by Professors Ariel Merari and Boaz Ganor of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) at IDC Herzliya, in partnership with the Israel Ministry of Public Security, focused on independent terrorists (lone wolves) in the surge of terrorism that Israel experienced from October 2015 to December 2017. These are terrorists that acted alone or with accomplices, but with no operational support from a terrorist organization.
The study is based on a database of 700 attackers who took part in 560 attacks.
This is a first of its kind study that includes interviews with 45 lone wolf terrorists in prison, utilizing a unique method to create profiles of the terrorists and their motivations for the attacks, with the hope of formulating techniques to prevent attacks.
One of the alarming figures found was that at least 95 attackers made use of social media prior to carrying out attacks, with 60 of them even publishing posts indicating their intent to carry out attacks.
The study also examined the “success rate” of the attacks (defined as injuring at least one victim) and found that during the first stage of the surge (October 2015-March 2016), over 50% of attacks were successful, while during the second stage (April 2016-December 2017), only 26% of attacks were successful.
The study looked at the various motives for committing terrorist attacks, with in-depth interviews conducted on 45 terrorists, and found that a combination of motives and factors were behind the attacks, including psychological factors, ideological motives, personal factors and trigger events (copycat attacks, geopolitical events and traumatic events) – all augmented by incitement. Ideological motivation (nationalistic and religious) was found to have had an effect on 60% of the terrorists in the sample group – 28% of the men and 11% of the women.
It is important to note that two-thirds of the attackers in the sample group suffered from mental disorders, psychosis or suicidal tendencies. A large percentage of the sample group was suicidal, with 54% saying they would have preferred to die in the attack.
The study found that of the 700 lone wolf attackers, 85% were men and 15% were women, with the average age being 22. Among the attackers, 77% were residents of Judea and Samaria, and 17% were residents of East Jerusalem.
Among the sample group interviewed, there was a particularly high tendency of familial problems among the female attackers. Additionally, 15% of the sample group was found to be illiterate males.