Exploring Patterns of Behaviour in Violent Jihadist Terrorists

An analysis of six significant terrorist conspiracies in the UK

by Lindsay Clutterbuck, Richard Warnes

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The aim of this research was to see whether the groups/cells and their 38 core individuals who had taken part in the six most serious terrorist conspiracies and attacks in the UK between 2004 and 2007, all of which were driven by the ideology of violent Jihadism as espoused by Al Qaeda, exhibited any specific types of behaviour. In each case the terrorists successfully launched or unsuccessfully attempted an attack, or were arrested and convicted of conspiring to carry out a terrorist attack. The research provides a detailed examination of the behaviours exhibited by violent Jihadist groups/cells and the individuals within them.

The report outlines the history and background before examining the organisation, characteristics and behaviour of the groups/cells involved. It also examines individual behaviours carried out on behalf of the group/cell and individual behaviour more broadly. It demonstrates there are certain distinctive behavioural characteristics displayed with their planning, preparation and implementation of an act of terrorism. The six UK case studies show three categories of behaviours, from "radicalisation" into "transition to violent Jihad" and finally to "terrorist attack planning and preparation".

These findings open up the possibility of identifying through their behaviour individuals and groups engaged in the planning and preparation of a terrorist attack, thus allowing such attacks to be prevented or disrupted before they can be implemented. However, additional refinement and testing will be necessary to identify substantive "signal indicators" of potential use to police and security forces.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Violent Jihadist groups/cells in the UK

  • Chapter Three

    How the groups/cells were organised

  • Chapter Four

    How the groups/cells functioned

  • Chapter Five

    Can past behaviour indicate potential future intentions?

  • Appendix A

    Datasets of overall group/cell characteristics and behaviours

  • Appendix B

    Dataset of an individual's behaviour when acting on behalf of their particular group/cell

  • Appendix C

    Dataset of characteristics and potentially relevant personal behaviours in individuals

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The research described in this report was prepared for the Airey Neave Trust and conducted by RAND Europe.

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