Cover: Radicalization, Linkage, and Diversity

Radicalization, Linkage, and Diversity

Current Trends in Terrorism in Europe

Published Jul 6, 2011

by Lorenzo Vidino

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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.

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.

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