As the White House prepares to host a major summit examining the threat of violent extremism next week, the Southern Poverty Law Center today released a study of domestic terrorism that found the vast majority of this violence over the last five years has come “lone wolves”or “leaderless resistance”groups composed of no more than two people.
The report, Age of the Wolf: A Study of the Rise of Lone Wolf and Leaderless Resistance Terrorism, examines more than 60 domestic terror incidents and covers a period between April 1, 2009, and Feb. 1, 2015, and was based on records maintained by Indiana State University and the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database, along with the SPLC’s own tally of domestic terror incidents.
Among the study’s primary findings were that almost three-quarters of the incidents were carried out, or planned, by a lone wolf, a single person acting without accomplices. Ninety percent of the incidents were the work of no more than two persons. Using the data, the study also found that a violent attack from either the radical right or homegrown jihadists was foiled or carried out, on average, every 34 days.
A timeline included with the report details deadly attacks and plots across the country, including a 2014 rampage in Nevada by a husband and wife with antigovernment views that left two police officers and another man dead, a 2012 attack on a Wisconsin Sikh temple by a long-time neo-Nazi that killed six victims, and a 2010 attack that left an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) manager dead after a man who had attended radical anti-tax group meetings crashed his single-engine plane into an IRS office in Austin, Texas.
“Our study clearly shows the urgent need for federal agencies to reinvigorate their work studying and analyzing the radical right,”said Mark Potok, SPLC senior fellow and editor of the report. “And it’s important to recognize the trend away from organized groups committing acts of domestic terror. As Timothy McVeigh demonstrated with the Oklahoma City bombing, lone wolves and small cells of domestic terrorists can create massive carnage.”