Lone wolf terrorism is the term used to describe violent acts committed by a single author. This person acts independently and without the help of external organizations. A lone wolf terrorist may, however, follow the ideology of a particular organization or group and may commit acts of terror to show their support for that group. The planning and methods used by a lone terrorist are independent. Even if individuals believe in the mission or goal of a larger organization, they may never have contact with the group. In this way, they remain outside the detection of law enforcement and cannot be easily monitored, which makes them difficult to stop.
History of the term: Lone Wolf Terrorism
The term “lone wolf” has been used since the 19th century to describe the only person who moves away from the pack. The term has been used in movies and detective novels since at least 1914. A man who called himself the “Lone Wolf” tortured and terrified in Boston in the United States in 1925. The term was used to describe those strangers from society; those that never belong.
The term “lone wolf” has been associated with terrorism dating back to the 1980s. Louis Beam, a member of the KKK and the Aryan Nation, wrote a piece for his followers, encouraging a revolution without a leader. He believed that a revolution against the US government would be more successful if fought by independent individuals.
This idea continued to be promoted in 1990 by Tom Metzger and Alex Curtis. These two individuals, known white supremacists in the United States, followed Louis Beam’s recommendation and encouraged other white supremacists to perform independent acts of violence to avoid being discouraged by law enforcement. The FBI and the San Diego Police Department began an investigation into Alex Curtis, calling him “Operation Lone Wolf”.
Today the term is used by the media, politicians, law enforcement agencies and the general public.
Lone wolf terrorism
Lone wolf terrorism was adopted by al Qaeda after September 11, 2001, when US military forces attacked its operational base in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda leaders urged their followers to take part in independent acts of violence against their perceived enemies at any time. Years later, members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS and ISIL), followed suit, encouraging followers to take part in acts of solitary and wolf terrorism.
This adoption of the tactics of lone wolf terrorism has effectively changed the fact of terrorism. Where terrorist acts were once associated with large orchestrated events led by a long chain of command, terrorist acts are now increasingly driven by autonomous cells or individuals.
In fact, statistics show that throughout North America and Western Europe, the solitary wolf terrorism associated with radical Islam increased between 1990 and 2013. This increase was found in the number of targeted countries, in one series of wounded and dead and in numerous attacks against the army.
Solitary terrorism and mental health
Mental health experts believe that solitary wolf terrorists tend to have psychological abnormalities caused by personal or political grievances. Their mental instability may be the main factor that makes it difficult to adapt or belong to everyday society. This refusal could push them towards radical or extreme ideological groups and their causes. A study showed that a lone wolf terrorist is 13.5 times more likely to have a mental illness than a terrorist who works in a large group.