According to the Report, 51 terror attacks have been carried out by 65 attackers in 8 world Countries from June 2014, when the Islamic State was self-proclaimed, to June 2017. The country with the largest number of attacks was France (17), followed by the United States (16), Germany (6), the UK (4), Belgium (3). The attacks caused 395 deaths and 1,549 physical injuries. The data is contained in the Report “Fear Thy Neighbor. Radicalization and Jihadist Attacks in the West”, published by the Institute for International Politics Studies (ISPI) in cooperation with the Program on Extremism of George Washington University and the International Centre for Counter–Terrorism at The Hague. The Report written by Lorenzo Vidino and Francesco Marone will be presented next Wednesday 21 in Rome to the presence of Interior Minister Marco Minniti.
France was the Country with the highest number of victims (239), followed by the United States (76). Despite a general trend that sees increasingly younger people radicalizing, the average age of attackers was 27.3, while almost one third (27%) of perpetrators was above the age of 30. Moreover, despite increasing active presence of women in jihadist networks, only 2 out of 65 individual perpetrators were female. Women’s role appears to be limited to “auxiliary” activities such as recruitment, logistics, support or advocacy for terrorist activity. According to the findings, the alleged connection between terrorism and immigration is virtually non-existent:
In fact the Report shows that 73% of attackers were citizens of the country in which they committed the attack.
17% of perpetrators were converts to Islam while at least 57% of attackers had a prior criminal background. Only 18% of attackers are known to have previously been foreign fighters.
The terrorists – states the Report – employed various kinds of tactics and tools to carry out their attacks ranging from synchronized, guerrilla-style raids military raids to seemingly spontaneous attacks by lone individuals brandishing knives or hatchets, detonating explosives or using vehicles driven into crowds. Most attacks occurred in urban centres owing to higher level of accessibility, anonymity, freedom of movement for terrorists and better opportunity to maximize the lethality of violence and higher political and symbolic value of targets such as the Champs-Élysées and the Louvre Museum in Paris and Westminster in London. The “peak” of the attacks was in 2016, with four attacks (two in France and two in Germany), 43 terrorists on 65 lost their lives during their attacks.
The November 2015 Paris attack was the most lethal (130 fatalities, 90 of which occurred at the Bataclan theatre). The attack in Nice was carried out by a “lone wolf” with a truck, causing 86 deaths.
Those were all Jihadist attacks. However, according to the Report, only 8% of terrorist attacks were carried out by individuals who were acting under direct orders from the Islamic State’s leadership. Most attacks were carried out by individuals who had some form of connection to the Islamic State, perhaps through the Internet, but acted independently.
For one of the two authors, Lorenzo Vidino, two elements in particular emerge in the Report. The first is that most perpetrators were born and raised in Western countries. “The public debate focuses on refugees and threats to security coming from outside, but while there have been cases of attackers who arrived into Europe illegally, according to statistics, a great majority of terrorists were born and raised in our Countries. Hence it can be said that we are facing an indigenous threat.”
The second aspect is that most of the attacks, except for those in Brussels and Paris, were not perpetrated directly by the Islamic State but by individuals who had sporadic ties with ISIS. “We are not facing structured cells, trained and sent here to carry out the attacks. Rather, the attacks were made with relatively minimum amount of distant control. In a future prospect – for Vidino – this could be the dynamics of an Islamic State that is loosing grounds in Syria and Iraq, namely, to foment individuals already present in the West in order to
obtain a high return in terms of victims and impact on Western public opinion despite a low investment of resources.
What is the situation in Italy? Also in our Country we are faced with an indigenous threat. The Report highlights the exceptional case of the Italian city of Ravenna. Ravenna has the sad record of having produced nine foreign fighters (but indications suggest the number may be as high as 20): a significant, much higher figure when compared to urban centres like Rome, Milan and Naples.
Vidino then referred to the last two episodes: the case of Youssef Zaghba, the Moroccan-Italian young man from Bologna perpetrator of the London attack, and the case of Milan’s Central Station, where an individual with Jihadist connections knifed police officers at the Central Station. “This shows that even here in Italy there are increasing numbers of radicalized individuals holders of Italian passport, and that the expulsion system cannot be applied to Italian nationals.” Finally, the fight on terrorism implies addressing the Internet scenario. However, those are “virtual relations between the Islamic State and individuals active on the national territory – the Professor pointed out – who are in constant movement on encrypted platforms that entail technological transformations and consistent investments.”