Monday 22 December 2014

About 40 percent of lone-wolf terrorists are driven by mental illness, not ideology: Researchers

Researchers have long studied the relationship between mental illness and terrorism, particularly lone-wolf terrorists such as the radical Muslim man who killed a soldier outside Canada’s Parliament; the right-wing extremist who opened fire on government buildings in Texas and tried to burn down the Mexican Consulate; the al-Qaeda-inspired-assailant who killed an off-duty soldier in London; or the Iranian Shi’a who, in the name of Sunni fundamentalism, killed two in a Sydney coffee shop last week. Law enforcement claimed all of them were terrorists who were motivated by ideology, but many researchers, psychologists, and family members say they were mentally ill.
A study funded by the U.S. Justice Department and conducted by Ramon Spaaij, a sociologist at Australia’s Victoria University, and Mark Hamm of Indiana State University, says that there is a significant link between mental problems and the making of a lone-wolf terrorist, leading to cautious hope that future attacks may be avoided. “It’s never an either-or in terms of ideology versus mental illness,” Spaaij said. “It’s a dangerous cocktail.”
The Portland Press Herald notes that lone-wolf attacks do not require sophisticated planning, making them difficult to intercept by using popular counterterrorism strategies, including communications surveillance. “There’s no great complexity to it,” said London Police chief Bernard Hogan-Howe. “So what that means is that we have a very short time to interdict, to actually intervene and make sure that these people don’t get away with it.”
At least thirteen months before Michael Adebowale killed an off-duty soldier in London in 2013, his social media activities and prior history led U.K. domestic intelligence agency, MI5, to suggest that Adebowale be assessed by the agency’s Behavioral Science Unit for mental illness, but the assessment was never done. A parliamentary inquiry into the murder called the suggested assessment a missed opportunity and that “MI5 should ensure that the unit’s advice is integrated more thoroughly into investigations.”



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