The Rise of the Self-Radicalised Lone Wolf Terrorist

Data from the latest Global Terrorism Index shows a rise of individual, unaffiliated terrorist attackers in the West. More incidents are being committed at the hands of lone wolf terrorist attackers in the West, according to the latest Global Terrorism Index.

Long-term data reveals the proportion of unaffiliated attacks, or attacks committed by individuals with no link to a terrorist group, has risen from under five per cent in the mid-1970s to above 70% for the period between 2014 and 2018.

The rise reflects two distinct trends: the fall in organised far-left political terrorism, and the increase in far-right mass or spree shootings, usually carried out by an individual who was self-radicalised or radicalised primarily via the Internet, rather than by in-person contact with other far-right individuals or groups.

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, such as Islamic State of Iraq or the Levant, or broader identity groups or ideologies, such as white nationalist extremists, anti-Muslim extremists.

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 much more likely to be affiliated with a specific group, with just nine, ten, and 15 per cent of attacks respectively carried out by unaffiliated individuals.

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, and over a third appear to have been primarily radicalised online.

Incidents of far-right terrorism have been increasing in the West, particularly in Western Europe, North America, and Oceania. Over the past five years, the total number of incidents have increased by 320%.