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New Terrorists, New Attack Means? Categorizing Terrorist Challenges for the Early 21st Century

NCJ Number
Rod Propst
Date Published
March 2002
13 pages
This article characterizes terrorists of both the new and old schools and examines the most likely attack means to be employed by each.
The new terrorist may be a member of a fanatic religious group dependent on pronouncements from a messianic, charismatic leader or may be a radicalized loner with a heavily tainted racist point of view. The new terrorist is less likely to be defined as politically motivated, although elements of some groups do possess political goals of changing the system and are more likely to want to destroy or replace the existing system. The new terrorist works in a closed circle of like-minded people, with little regard for or influence by outside constituencies. This feature of insularity makes them much less susceptible to moderating outside influences, making them more dangerous to targeted adversaries. It is likely that chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) and conventional terrorist attacks will occur in the future. The use of conventional or CBRN attack means is not an either-or proposition. Terrorists employ violence to achieve their objectives in a number of complementary and interlinked strategies and tactics. Though terrorist use of CBRN is more likely now, the weight of evidence suggests that terrorists are most likely to continue using conventional weapons. While the new terrorists are more likely to use CBRN than their predecessors, they remain more likely to use conventional attack means but in a much less constrained manner. This will lead to an ever-increasing escalation of deaths directly attributable to terrorist incidents. 47 endnotes