Department of Political Science

End of the Lone Wolf: The Typology that Should Not Have Been

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  • Bart Schuurman, Leiden University, Netherlands
  • Lasse Lindekilde
  • Stefan Malthaner, Hamburg Institute for Social Research, Germany
  • Francis O'Connor, Peace Research Institute Frankfurt, Germany
  • Paul Gill, University College London, United Kingdom
  • Noemié Bouhana, University College London, United Kingdom

This research note argues that the “lone wolf” typology should be fundamentally reconsidered. Based on a three-year empirical research project, two key points are made to support this argument. First, the authors found that ties to online and offline radical milieus are critical to lone actors' adoption and maintenance of both the motive and capability to commit acts of terrorism. Second, in terms of pre-attack behaviors, the majority of lone actors are not the stealthy and highly capable terrorists the “lone wolf” moniker alludes to. These findings not only urge a reconsideration of the utility of the lone-wolf concept, they are also particularly relevant for counterterrorism professionals, whose conceptions of this threat may have closed off avenues for detection and interdiction that do, in fact, exist.

Original languageEnglish
JournalStudies in Conflict and Terrorism
Pages (from-to)771-778
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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