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Organizational Learning and Islamic Militancy

NCJ Number
NIJ Journal Issue: 265 Dated: April 2010 Pages: 18-21
Date Published
April 2010
4 pages
Publication Series
Based on 5 months of fieldwork on Islamic militancy in Britain and Spain, this study examined how terrorists acquire the experience and expertise needed to conduct their deadly attacks.
The study found that Islamic terrorists acquire technical knowledge in bomb-making and weapons-handling by reading manuals and other documents that provide detailed, systematic instruction. They may also attend training camps where experienced practitioners teach how to make bombs and handle weapons. Knowledge from books and/or training must evolve into practical, hands-on experience in building bombs, firing guns, and surveying targets. This practical experience must be gained in the particular localities where planned attacks are to occur, i.e., in particular countries and in the locales of attacks (urban areas, countryside) and type of target (open-air or confined area, building, or public area). Many terrorists have lived for years in the areas where their attacks are planned. Some gain practical experience through a criminal lifestyle that has involved the use of weapons, violence, deception, and criminal planning. Currently, in Britain and Spain it has become increasingly difficult for would-be terrorist to acquire the practical experience to conduct attacks. Law enforcement agencies have become increasingly proficient in intercepting communications and tracking the purchase of bomb-making materials and weapons. In order to develop hands-on knowledge for conducting attacks, would-be terrorists must practice building bombs, using firearms, performing surveillance, and planning coordinated attacks with other terrorists. These efforts expose them to surveillance by both civilians and professional law enforcement personnel, which can lead to arrests and prosecution. This research was based on interviews with many militants, law enforcement officials, intelligence analysts, news reports, and studies of court documents and criminal proceedings in Britain and Spain. 10 notes

Date Published: April 1, 2010