Study Finds Rise in Lone Wolf Terrorist Attacks Since Oklahoma City

By Matthew Harwood

Domestic terrorist attacks perpetrated by individuals, or lone wolves, have increased since Timothy McVeigh's bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City 15 years ago, reports a terrorism research organization.

"[T]he attack by an individual unaffiliated with a terrorist organization in Oklahoma City reflected a shift in the nature of U.S. terrorist perpetrators in the mid-1990s," reports the University of Maryland's National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). "[S]ince 1995, a much higher percentage of terrorist attacks in the United States have been conducted by unaffiliated individuals, rather than by organized groups. In the period 1995 (post-Oklahoma City) through 2007, 43 out of 131 incidents with attributed perpetrators were committed by individuals—33% of all attacks in the United States in this period."

The report also finds that the average number of domestic terrorist attacks per year has declined since 1995, although they have become more lethal.

In between 1970 and 2007, there was an average of 36 domestic terrorist attacks inside the United States. This average slid to 19 attacks per year since 1995, but attacks have become slightly more deadly. From 1970 to 1995, there were 2.1 deaths per attack. This has risen to 2.8 deaths per attack in between 1995 and 2007.

The number of domestic terrorist attacks that use an improvised explosive device outpaces the global average since 1970. According to the research, 12.5 percent of U.S. domestic attacks used an IED while 8 percent of terrorist attacks worldwide used the same attack method. Since 1970, domestic terrorists have used IEDs 169 times, including Oklahoma City, although almost nine out of ten attacks do not kill anyone. Timothy McVeigh's Ryder-truck-borne IED was by far the deadliest IED attack in U.S. history, claiming 168 lives.

While START finds that the most active terrorist organizations inside the United States since Oklahoma City are eco- and animal rights extremists associated with the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front, the organization singles out far-right extremists for their violence and their target set.

(For more on rightwing extremism, see "Napolitano Urges Vigilance on Antigovernment Extremism During Memorial Ceremony.")

"Excluding the Oklahoma City bombing, these far-rightist homicides have resulted in over 400 fatalities," according to START. "Included among these are 14 suicide missions resulting in 36 fatalities."

Prominent victims of rightwing extremists have been law enforcement members. Forty-nine police officers have died due to rightwing extremist violence since 1990, with 70 percent being members of local and state law enforcement. The most deadly year for law enforcement was 1995 until 2009, when six police officers were murdered by rightwing extremists.

 ♦ Photo of aftermath of Oklahoma City bombing by FEMA/WikiMediaCommons


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