Radicalization, Linkage, and Diversity

Current Trends in Terrorism in Europe

by Lorenzo Vidino

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Abstract

Although it has not suffered a successful attack since the July 7, 2005, bombings in London, Europe perceives itself to be under a constant threat from jihadist-inspired terrorism. Indeed, European authorities arrest some 200 individuals and thwart a handful of plots of jihadist inspiration every year.

Based on a survey of legal documents, intelligence reports, academic literature, and media sources, and on conversations with experts and government officials, this paper provides an overview of current trends in jihadism in Europe from an operational perspective. Its main finding is that, although most European plots appear to have been independent, the most serious ones tended to involve extensive operational connections to groups operating outside of Europe. Moreover, contrary to common characterizations, there is little evidence indicating that al Qaeda and affiliated organizations operating outside of Europe conduct direct efforts to recruit European Muslims. Rather, connections between individuals or clusters in Europe on one hand and al Qaeda and affiliated movements on the other are forged through a process of linkage, often facilitated through personal connections and "jihad entrepreneurs," that typically occurs after radicalization and is initiated by European militants. The presence of this linkage characterizes the fourth and current phase of jihadism in Europe.

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Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    The Evolution of European Jihadism

  • Chapter Two

    Linkage as the Key

  • Chapter Three

    Analysis of Case Studies

  • Chapter Four

    Classification of Plots

  • Chapter Five

    Identifying Linkage Patterns

  • Chapter Six

    Diversity in Destinations and Makeup

  • Chapter Seven

    Conclusion and Recommendations

The research described in this report was prepared for the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). The research was conducted within the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by OSD, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation occasional paper series. RAND occasional papers may include an informed perspective on a timely policy issue, a discussion of new research methodologies, essays, a paper presented at a conference, or a summary of work in progress. All RAND occasional papers undergo rigorous peer review to help ensure that they meet high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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