Studies in Conflict & Terrorism Volume: 30 Issue: 5 Dated: May 2007 Pages: 415-428
This article analyzes the trend of “self-starter” terrorist cells through a case study of the London Bombers.
The main argument is that self-starter cells are inevitable and researchers must embrace a different perspective when examining terrorist organizations in order to account for and understand this phenomenon. Self-starter terrorist cells fit perfectly within the original goals and vision of al Qaeda, which include inspiring Muslims in distant lands to embrace the Jihad and rise up against their perceived enemies. Technological developments have been instrumental in the emergence of self-starter cells, which use the Internet to make links with other cells and to gain valuable information about terrorist strategies and techniques. While the attacks planned by the London Bombers were independently planned and implemented, they align with the long-term goal of al Qaeda and bin Laden. The author cautions, however, that although al Qaeda will claim ownership of the self-starter cell attacks after the fact, researchers cannot simply view the emergence of self-starter cells as another chapter in the decentralization of al Qaeda. Moreover, the study of self-starter cells cannot be reduced to a simple network analysis. Instead, new approaches and new paradigms will be required to understand the emergence of self-starter cells and to develop effective counter-strategies. Attention will need to be placed on understanding group dynamics as well as on theories that explain deviance and the rejection of societal norms. Indeed, by branching out from network analysis as the primary explanation for terrorist organizational capability, researchers will be challenged to confront a complex spectrum of ideological and social factors motivating the emergence and actions of self-starter terrorist cells. Notes
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