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Terrorism and Civil War: A Spatial and Temporal Approach to a Conceptual Problem


Michael Findley & Joseph K. Young have posted this APSA 2010 Annual Meeting Paper to SSRN. Here’s the abstract:

What is the relationship between civil war and terrorism? Recent attempts to unpack the similarities between these types of political violence have either focused on creating actor-based categories (terrorists vs. insurgents) and elucidating the different reasons for being one or the other or comparing and contrasting each to discern whether they have similar etiologies. In contrast to previous approaches, we use geo-referenced terror event data from the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) to show where and when terror happens and whether it occurs inside or outside of civil war zones. We investigate in detail six separate violent campaigns to illustrate some of the patterns in terrorism and civil war events. While the study of terrorism and civil war mostly occurs in separate scholarly communities, we argue for more work that incorporates insights from each research program, and we offer an exciting possibility for future research by merging geo-referenced terror and civil war data.

Dissertations and Theses on (Counter-)Terrorism and Political Violence (1980-2010)


Over at Perspectives on Terrorism:

Scores of theses on terrorism and political violence are written every year at our universities. While a number of them are subsequently published as books, many remain shelved and unread. However, today more and more are available online. Here is a sample of more than 130 titles; many of them can be directly accessed online through the Internet.

Mid-East Psychiatrists Explore Mind of Suicide Bombers


Psychiatric News July 16, 2010
Volume 45 Number 14 Page 8
© American Psychiatric Association

Psychiatrists from Egypt and Saudi Arabia say that much remains to be learned about the psychology of those who become suicide bombers.

Suicidal bombing differs from ordinary suicide because the primary goal of the person carrying the explosives is not just to die, but rather to accomplish a mission in the process, Yasser Elsayed, M.D., told a packed room at the APA annual meeting in New Orleans in May.

“They are human bombs, not suicide bombers,” said Elsayed, a professor of psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry at Ain Shams University in Cairo. The bombers resort to suicide through an absence of other choices, believing that their behavior is a form of martyrdom in service of a higher cause.

Elsayed was one of three speakers on a panel discussing the psychology of suicide bombing.

One might assume that people recruited to be bombers would exhibit some psychopathology, but that is not the case, at least in a clinical sense, said Mohsen Khalil, M.D., of the Al-Amal Complex for Mental Health in the Ministry of Health of Saudi Arabia.

… However, researchers do not have full access to data that would permit analysis of the program’s success, and there are no clinical studies on actual terrorists, said Elsayed.

Indeed, observed one member of the audience in the discussion that followed, “Suicide bombers never present for treatment.”

Governments might do more to investigate the psychology of suicide bombers by organizing teams of psychiatrists, social workers, clergy, and politicians to study the problems. Elsayed said, “A lot could be done with 1 percent of the military budget.”

Link to full story

Gender, Crime and Terrorism: The Case of Arab/Palestinian Women in Israel


In press in British Journal of Criminology:

Anat Berko, Edna Erez and Julie L. Globokar (2010). Gender, Crime and Terrorism: The Case of Arab/Palestinian Women in Israel. British Journal of Criminology, doi:10.1093/bjc/azq013

This article compares the background, motivation, pathways and prison experiences of Arab/Palestinian women who were imprisoned for conventional crimes with those who were incarcerated for security-related or terrorism offences. In-depth interviews of the two groups were conducted in the Israeli prisons in which they served their sentences. Prison personnel were also interviewed and court and prison files examined to validate the women’s background and criminal history. Although both groups transgressed gender expectations by venturing into male-dominated worlds (crime and terrorism), the data point to differences between the groups regarding their personal background and the manner in which their violations were influenced by gender and the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. The implications of the findings for differences between crime and terrorism as related to gender and Palestinian terrorism are discussed.

Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression 2(2)


Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression: Volume 2 Issue 2 is now available and is a special issue on Memory and Terrorism. The guest editors write:

The articles in the special issue could be conceptually organized in two halves: Before and After terrorism. Although this temporal division is misleading and blind to the complex dynamics between past and present, and future that memory embodies, as well as to the event of terrorism itself and how people experience it, it can be a good starting point for an interdisciplinary discussion on the relationship between memory and terrorism. When we think about Before, we ask how memory is used to mobilize people to engage in terrorism and political aggression, how the past is narrated, imagined and framed in the present to foster violence, even after nation-states transition to peace and reconciliation. The Before includes studies of terrorist’s wills, how media assist in making terror visible, the language in which terrorist groups recall the past in order to garner support, etc.

When we think about the After, we focus on the short- and long-term echoes of terrorism and political aggression within and between individuals and societies. Memories of terrorism and political aggression are not easily dealt with, nor do they easily remain in the past. Often, as some of the articles in this issue show, the memory of the violent event is intentionally forgotten or distorted, mobilized to promote and legitimatize political or religious purposes, or combined with other memories and models before the difficult process of healing may even begin.

The editorial is free to all; the rest of the articles are sadly behind a paywall.


  • Editorial: The resounding echoes of memory in terrorism and political aggression – Adam D. Brown; Yifat Gutman
  • Terrorism in the new memory ecology: Mediating and remembering the 2005 London Bombings – Steven D. Brown; Andrew Hoskins
  • Social language processing: A framework for analyzing the communication of terrorists and authoritarian regimes – Jeffrey T. Hancock; David I. Beaver; Cindy K. Chung; Joey Frazee; James W. Pennebaker; Art Graesser; Zhiqiang Cai
  • Public events and the organization of autobiographical memory: An overview of the living-in-history project – Norman R. Brown; Peter J. Lee
  • Hiroshima and 9/11: Linking memorials for peace – David P. Janes

Societal Responses to Terrorist Attacks


Seymour Spilerman and Guy Stecklov (2009). Societal Responses to Terrorist Attacks. Annual Review of Sociology. Vol. 35: 167-189

Terrorist attacks in the United States and in Western Europe have been rare, and public awareness of the terrorist menace has largely been molded by a few horrific events. In contrast, other countries have experienced chronic terrorism, with attacks on buses, restaurants, coffee shops, and retail establishments. In this review, we assess the impact of terrorism on civilian society in the United States, Northern Ireland, and Israel. We examine the psychological effects, the adaptations made by individuals to enhance their safety, and the consequent adjustments made by institutional actors and by commercial establishments to ensure continued economic viability. We review the various theories of societal adjustments to exogenous shocks and point out that a very different formulation is required for the case of chronic terrorism than for the societal experience of a one-time attack.

Sacred Values: Psychological and Anthropological Perspectives on Fairness, Fundamentalism, and Terrorism


John Thomas Alderdice (2009). Sacred Values: Psychological and Anthropological Perspectives on Fairness, Fundamentalism, and Terrorism. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences Volume 1167 Pages 158 – 173

Enduring, violent, social, and political conflicts have often been interpreted as resulting directly from socioeconomic inequity. The advent of global terrorism is traditionally understood by the political left as representing a rational, albeit regrettable, third-world response to poverty. On the political right the alternative explanation tends to see the world in terms of the fight between good and evil—each side “Islamist” and “Western,” characterizing the enemy in similar opposing terms. This has recently been popularized as a clash of religions, cultures, or civilizations. Most poor societies do not, however, respond to their circumstances with violence (particularly terrorism), and indeed it is often at the point where the socioeconomic circumstances of a society or a region are improving that there is a breakdown into violence. Starting in Northern Ireland and then exploring other regions, including Peru, Nepal, and the Middle East, the author’s close observation of a number of societies where there has been persistent terrorism has revealed that the response is an emotional and self-destructive one rather than being marked by rational economic self-interest or an essentially religious/cultural conflict; it is often the sense of humiliation, disrespect, and injustice that is the most toxic stimulus; and, insofar as there is inequity or cultural division, it is the component of “unfairness” or “injustice” that is the potent element in the predisposing mixture. “Righting a terrible wrong” or responding to unfairness and injustice is, therefore, a key to understanding and addressing such violent social conflicts.

Domestic Terrorism: The Hidden Side of Political Violence


Ignacio Sanchez-Cuenca and Luis de la Calle (2009). Domestic Terrorism: The Hidden Side of Political Violence. Annual Review of Political Science; Volume 12, Page 31 – 49

This article reviews the literature on the onset and dynamics of domestic terrorism, with special emphasis on the interactions between terrorist organizations, the state, and society. Because this literature has often been based on case studies, we seek to impose some structure to its findings. We challenge the distinction between domestic and international terrorism, which truncates the sample of violence, and we show that the actor-sense of terrorism (violence carried out by underground organizations) is the most appropriate model for causal analysis. Terrorist organizations tend to emerge in developed countries in which the state is able to prevent the loss of control over any part of its territory. Terrorists take advantage of the state’s mistakes (when, for example, it is over-repressive or makes ineffective concessions) in order to boost their support. Terrorists cannot survive without some degree of support. Consequently, levels of violence and targets are determined by social constraints.

Analysis of terrorist social networks with fractal views


Christopher C. Yang & Marc Sageman (2009). Analysis of terrorist social networks with fractal views. Journal of Information Science 35(3):299-320

Social network visualization has drawn significant attention over recent years. It creates images of social networks that provide investigators with new insights about network structures and helps them to communicate those insights to others. Visualization facilitates the social network analysis. It supports the investigators to discover patterns of interactions among the social actors including detecting subgroups, identifying central actors and their roles, and discovering patterns of interactions among social actors. However, visualizing a large heterogeneous social network has several challenges. The large size of networks, complex relations among social actors and limited number of available pixels on a screen make it difficult to present important information clearly to investigators and hence reduce the capability of investigators to explore the networks. In this work, we propose the fractal views to construct a visual abstraction of a large and complex social network with users selected social actors as focuses. The fractal views are focus and context visualization techniques using an information reduction approach. It controls the amount of information displayed by focusing on the syntactic structure of information. It is useful in discovering knowledge from terrorist social networks for combating the war on terrorism. Such application has formed an important research topic, known as intelligence and security informatics, in recent years due to the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001 (9/11) and several other terror attacks that have occurred within the last decade. We present several case studies to demonstrate the capability of the proposed technique on analyzing the Global Salafi Jihad terrorist social network. It extracts the hidden relationships among terrorists through user interactions. In addition, we have conducted a user evaluation to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of fractal views. It shows that fractal views outperform fisheye views and zoom-in windows to support users in visualizing and analyzing terrorist social networks.

Key Words: information visualization • terrorist social networks • social network analysis • fractal views • visual analytics

Social networking for terrorists


Inderscience publishers press release, 4 May 2009:

A new approach to analyzing social networks, reported in the current issue of the International Journal of Services Sciences, could help homeland security find the covert connections between the people behind terrorist attacks. The approach involves revealing the nodes that act as hubs in a terrorist network and tracing back to individual planners and perpetrators.

Dr Yoshiharu Maeno, Founder Management Consultant of the Social Design Group and Dr Yukio Ohsawa, Associate Professor at the School of Engineering, University of Tokyo, Japan, explain that their analytical approach to understanding terrorist networks could ultimately help prevent future attacks.


Mumbai Terrorist Attacks Show Rise of Strategic Terrorist Culture


The Rand Corporation has released a study on the Mumbai terrorist attacks last year.

The Mumbai terrorist attacks in India suggest the possibility of an escalating terrorist campaign in South Asia and the rise of a strategic terrorist culture, according to a study issued today by the RAND Corporation.

The RAND study identifies the operational and tactical features of the attack, evaluates the response of Indian security forces, and analyzes the implications for India, Pakistan and the United States.

Download study here.

Hat tip Docuticker

Terrorism Studies Repository Launched


Hat tip to APA Psychological Science Agenda:

On Monday, December 15, the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), a Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence based at the University of Maryland, launched the Terrorism Studies Syllabi Repository: The repository currently contains 154 undergraduate, 56 graduate, and 1 K-12 syllabi relevant to the study of terrorism and responses to terrorism. Of those, a search on “psychology” returned 15 undergraduate and 4 graduate syllabi. The Web interface for the repository allows visitors to search by instructor name, course level, discipline, or one of 36 discrete keywords. Each syllabus is available for download in PDF format.

Dynamics of Asymmetric Conflict: Pathways toward terrorism and genocide, 1(2)


Dynamics of Asymmetric Conflict: Pathways toward terrorism and genocide Volume 1 Issue 2 is now online. Contents include:

  • How democracies fight insurgents and terrorists – Anthony Oberschall
  • The language of violence: distinguishing terrorist from nonterrorist groups by thematic content analysis – Allison G. Smith; Peter Suedfeld; Lucian G. Conway III; David G. Winter
  • The opposing forces diffusion model: the initiation and repression of collective violence – Daniel J. Myers; Pamela E. Oliver
  • A theory of the dynamics of violence – Bert Useem
  • Stretching military analysis to include asymmetric conflict – Barak Mendelsohn
  • Looking backward and forward at the global war on terrorism – Mohammed M. Hafez
  • Rethinking Al Qaeda: Leaderless jihad: terror networks in the twenty-first century – Lindsay Clutterbuck
  • When zero-sum games go negative – Ian S. Lustick

Policing 2(4): Special issue – Violent Extremism


The latest issue of the journal Policing 2(4) is a special on Violent Extremism. Contents include:

  • Stephen Vertigans – Introducing Militant Islam: Peoples, Places and Policing
  • Richard Warnes and Greg Hannah – Meeting the Challenge of Extremist and Radicalized Prisoners: The Experiences of the United Kingdom and Spain
  • Paul Gill – Suicide Bomber Pathways among Islamic Militants
  • Minna Saarnivaara – Suicide Campaigns as a Strategic Choice: The Case of Hamas
  • Thomas Baumert – Do Terrorists Play the Market? Or Can Their Attacks Serve as a Source of Financing for Terrorism?
  • Donncha Marron – Money Talks, Money Walks: The War on Terrorist Financing in the West
  • Annamarie Oliverio – US versus European Approaches to Terrorism: Size Really Does Matter

Deprogramming Jihadists


From the New York Times 7 Nov 2008:

The sunset prayer had just ended, and Sheik Ahmad al-Jilani was already calling his class to order. When the latecomers slipped into the front row, Jilani nodded at them briskly. “Young men,” he began, “who can tell me why we do jihad?” […]

Jilani’s students, who range in age from 18 to 36, are part of a generation brought up on heroic tales of Saudi fighters who left home to fight alongside the mujahedeen in Afghanistan during the 1980s and who helped to force the Soviets to withdraw from the country. The Saudi state was essentially built on the concept of jihad, which King Abdul Aziz al-Saud used to knit disparate tribal groups into a single nation. The word means “struggle” and in Islamic law usually refers to armed conflict with non-Muslims in defense of the global Islamic community. Saudi schools teach a version of world history that emphasizes repeated battles between Muslims and nonbelieving enemies. Whether to Afghanistan in the 1980s or present-day Iraq, Saudi Arabia has exported more jihadist volunteers than any other country; 15 of the 19 hijackers on Sept. 11 were Saudis.