Lone-Actor Terrorism: Policy Paper 1: Personal Characteristics of Lone-Actor Terrorists

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This first policy paper of the Countering Lone-Actor Terrorism series focuses on the personal characteristics of lone-actor terrorists and provides a number of policy recommendations

Countering Lone-Actor Terrorism Series: No. 5

The aim of the Countering Lone-Actor Terrorism (CLAT) project is to understand lone-actor terrorism in a European context. The project will develop a database of lone-actor cases from across Europe. Its overall objective is to see if it is possible to discern any trends or patterns that could be translated into useful observations or recommendations for practitioners and policy-makers.

This is the first of four policy papers in the CLAT series and is published by the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague. This paper focuses on the personal characteristics of lone-actor terrorists, resulting in a number of policy recommendations. The analysis specifically outlines the importance of benchmarking and looking at different sub-groups. It further identifies the importance of trust and openness, and of multi-agency co-operation. These factors might be the basis of formulating an effective response to the challenge of lone-actor terrorism.

About the Authors

Jeanine de Roy van Zuijdewijn is a Research Fellow at International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT). She is also a Researcher at the Institute of Security and Global Affairs of Leiden University. Jeanine studied International Relations in Historical Perspective at Utrecht University and finished her degree with a thesis on foreign fighters (cum laude). At the ICCT, she has continued this research on foreign fighters which has resulted in a number of publications. Jeanine also assists in two projects: Countering Lone Actor Terrorism; and Transitions from Military Interventions to Long-Term Counter-Terrorism Policies, focusing on Libya (2011–present). She also helps Professor Edwin Bakker with a massive open online course (MOOC) called 'Terrorism and Counterterrorism: Comparing Theory & Practice' and assists in teaching this course in blended learning format at Leiden University. Furthermore, she is Editorial Board Member of the Leiden Safety and Security Blog.

Edwin Bakker is Professor in Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism at Leiden University, Director of Leiden University’s Institute of Security and Global Affairs and Research Fellow at ICCT. He studied Economic Geography (Netherlands) and Political Geography (Netherlands and Germany). In 1997, he defended his PhD thesis on minority conflicts in Slovakia and Hungary. He taught classes in international policies on preventing and managing separatism and intra-state war in the Balkans at the Centre for International Conflict Analysis and Management (CICAM), Nijmegen University. Between 2003 and 2010 he was a fellow at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’ where he headed the Clingendael Security and Conflict Programme (since 2007). His research interests at Leiden University and the ICCT are, amongst other, radicalisation processes, jihadi terrorism unconventional threats to security and crisis-impact management.

About the Project

The Countering Lone-Actor Terrorism (CLAT) project is co-funded by the Prevention of and Fight against Crime Programme of the European Union, and has been undertaken by a RUSI-led consortium. Partnering institutions include Chatham House, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) and Leiden University, one of the founding organisations of the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT) at The Hague.


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