Eyes To The Right

Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI: Editor of Risk UK

Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI: Editor of Risk UK

The latest detailed study conducted by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) reveals how lone actor terrorists are often less secretive than might be expected. It argues that their behaviour and activity can provide warnings of extreme views or even an ‘intention to act’, and promptly calls for an holistic response to meet the defined threat.

Lone actor terrorists are perceived as presenting acute challenges for law enforcement practitioners in terms of both detection and disruption. By definition, such terrorists act without direct command and control from a wider network. Perhaps not surprisingly, it’s assumed that without such communications, they may evade the ‘tripwires’ that would usually bring them to the close attentions of the authorities.

The study argues: “Lone actors should not be considered as detached, as is often presumed” and claims: “The machinery of counter-terrorism is not well-attuned to detecting a significant aspect of the lone actor terrorist threat.”

Significantly, this study reveals that, while the focus for the authorities is on religiously-inspired lone actor extremists, there’s an equal number of far right extremists who may go undetected. 88% of religiously-motivated terrorists have been caught through intelligence-led intervention, while 40% of right wing extremists were ‘uncovered with an element of chance’.

Clare Ellis, an expert at RUSI and a contributor towards the study, stated: “Security forces are far more likely to be watching the wider pool of religiously-inspired extremists than far right extremists. This reflects broader threat assessments and corresponding priorities across the European Union.”

According to Melanie Smith, an expert at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) and another contributor to the study: “Religiously-inspired terrorists remain the primary concern for European Governments. However, our research shows that extreme right lone actors are almost equal in number. The majority of policing and security resources remain focused on preventing attacks from ISIS-inspired individuals, but this has to change in light of the refugee crisis. For their part, European Governments need to commit more resources towards detecting and preventing extreme right lone actor terrorists.”

Entitled ‘Countering Lone Actor Terrorism’, the thought-provoking study is led by RUSI and a consortium of policy institutes including Chatham House, the ISD and the University of Leiden. The overall findings are published in eleven papers.

Smith highlights how the research “finds that one-in-three lone actor terrorists exhibited some form of link to a radical or extreme group despite planning and undertaking their attack alone. The police and the Security Services should continue to monitor non-violent groups, particularly on public social media platforms, and spot individuals who may be becoming violent.”

Furthermore, the overall conclusions about lone actors’ use of guns fits with broader concerns about the easy availability of firearms in parts of Europe. Between 2000 and 2014, firearms accounted for 89% of lone actor terrorism fatalities across the continent. This highlights the need for greater action, and indeed European co-operation, aimed at reducing their circulation.

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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