The 2019 Global Terrorism Index saw an increase in ‘Lone Wolf Terrorism,’ a term often referring to far-right mass shootings by self radicalised or online radicalised individuals.

The Rise in ‘Lone Wolf Terrorism’ in the West

Last year’s Global Terrorism Index found that more terrorist attacks are being committed at the hands of self radicalised ‘lone wolf terrorists’ in the West.

What is ‘Lone Wolf Terrorism’?

Long-term data trends reveal the proportion of unaffiliated attacks* is rising. In the mid-1970s, unaffiliated attacks accounted for 5% of total terrorist attacks in comparison to 70% for the period between 2014 and 2018.

Unaffiliated attacks are attacks committed by individuals unaffiliated to a terrorist group and are often referred to today as ‘Lone Wolf Terrorism’.

The rise reflects two distinct trends:

  • Firstly, the fall in organised far-left political terrorism
  • Secondly, the increase in ‘lone wolf terrorism’ or far-right mass shootings.

Individuals who are self-radicalised or radicalised primarily online usually carry out mass shootings. When we say self-radicalised, we are making a distinction between in-person contact with other people.

In general, far-right terrorists are less likely to be formally affiliated with a group than other terrorists, according to the data.

The Global Terrorism Database attributes terrorist attacks to specific groups or broader identity groups such as:

For attacks attributed to far-right and Islamist groups or individuals, just under 60% were carried out by unaffiliated individuals.

By contrast, separatist, far-left, and environmental terrorists were typically affiliated with a specific group. In fact, unaffiliated individuals carried out just nine, ten, and 15% of attacks respectively.

Analysis of Far-Right Terrorism in the West

Analysis of the 32 far-right terrorist attacks since 2011 that caused at least one fatality found that less than a quarter of the perpetrators had definite in-person contact with other far-right individuals or groups. While over a third appeared to be primarily radicalised online.

Incidents of far-right terrorism have increased in the West, particularly in Western Europe, North America, and Oceania. In fact, over the past five years, the number of incidents increased by a shocking 320%.

Download the 2020 Global Terrorism Index



Vision of Humanity

Editorial Staff

Vision of Humanity

Vision of Humanity is brought to you by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), by staff in our global offices in Sydney, New York, The Hague, Harare and Mexico. Alongside maps and global indices, we present fresh perspectives on current affairs reflecting our editorial philosophy.