The Growing Danger Of Lone Wolf Terrorism

For the past decade, terrorism has been one of the most pressing concerns for both nations and individual civilians. While many nations have adapted to try to stop these attacks so to have methods of these terrorist organizations changed. When before many ‘Cells’ co-ordinated to plan attacks, there has been a shift to instead rely not on groups but on individuals who they have swayed to their cause. These individuals, categorized as ‘Lone Wolf Terrorists’, have become a more prominent occurrence over the past five years. Whether under orders or acting of their own volition, there is no denying how damaging these lone wolf attacks can be.

Lone Wolf terrorism is something that has been able to exist in its present state due to the changing nature of communication. Social Media and the internet have allowed for the spreading of ideas to people who are receptive to them. The people targeted as actors for terrorist cells are often those who are disillusioned or who are less well-off than others within their homeland, who are often reduced to the cause due to finding something they believe in. These actors are often drawn to these beliefs due to a sense of belonging and believing it gives them a purpose, leading them to carry out acts of terror either at the behest of their superiors or of their own volition. Some Lone Wolves are not even in the employ of an organization, with some merely acting out of the ideals of a group or on pre-existing prejudices. Whether in league with a Terrorist group, or acting on their own volition, these actors are dangerous for the fact that they are both difficult to track and unpredictable. For many Lone Wolves, there is no extensive communication between a group and them on the scale of plots of the past, meaning it can be difficult to trace connections between them and terrorist groups.

The impacts of Lone Wolf Terrorism are not isolated or minimal in scale. One of the most infamous incidents in the past two years of this behaviour can be found in the attack on the Pulse Nightclub by Omar Mateen, where he killed 50 people with firearms. Omar claimed the attack was in retaliation for an attack that had killed ISIL Militant Abu Waheeb in an airstrike. Another example of a Lone Wolf not formally apart of a group, but inspired by one, was in the Lindt Café Siege that saw the death of three people including the perpetrator Man Haron Monis. While he had no official connection to ISIS and a known history of Mental Illness, he did force hostages to hold up a standard showing the Shahādah, which is a statement of the creed of the Islamic Faith. While Man Haron Monis was not officially in league with ISIS, there is no doubt that his actions were certainly inspired by them. However, there have been recent examples of the deadliness of Lone Wolf attacks. One recent attack occurred in January last year Quebec City Canada when Alexandre Bissonnette attacked the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City with a firearm that leads to the deaths of six people during evening Prayers. All of these incidents have to lead to loss of life in the pursuit of hatred or an ideology, with the attack on the Fuse Nightclub being the largest loss of life in a terrorist attack since the attack on the Twin Towers.

While Individually undertaken acts of terrorism are not a new phenomenon, the ways in which these individuals are recruited or tasked to carry out atrocities are changing. The growing importance of social media in the modern world has made it a powerful tool for many groups to target new members by spreading their ideas and praying upon those that are vulnerable with promises of brotherhood. If the chances of these attacks are to be minimized, it is first necessary to target those that they recruit. Not through violence, but by ensuring that they have every opportunity given to them to succeed and they are not placed at a disadvantage over other individuals. ‘Lone Wolf’ terrorists are a dangerous evolution of terrorist tactics, and stopping them is not as simple as destroying a terrorist group or cell. The ways to prevent them lie with society itself and only by taking steps to improve quality of life for all citizens, can we help minimize the risks of individuals being swayed to take a more violent path.

Joshua Robinson