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At the Edges of Terror: An Assessment of the Role of Lone Wolf Terrorists, Terrorist Group Participants and Organised Criminals in Contemporary Terrorism

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Martin Gallagher
Publication date2021
Number of pages188
Awarding Institution
Award date14/10/2021
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This thesis examines two phenomena often seen as existing on the periphery of terrorism research; ‘lone wolf terrorists’ and the relationship between terrorism and organised crime (the crime/terror nexus). The thesis contends that rather than being at the periphery of terrorism research when examined together both phenomena provide previously unexplored avenues into understanding contemporary terrorism, and should both be central to any examination of the potential future development of terrorism.

The thesis illustrates through focussed research, case studies, and an expanding modelling concept that the antecedents, actions and attributes of contemporary lone wolf terrorists and participants in crime/ terror nexus relationships have significant similarities. This thesis uniquely examined the crime/terror nexus and lone wolves set within Rapoport’s (2003) wave theory. In doing so it draws out previously unacknowledged common factors across what, until now, appear wholly disparate terrorist campaigns.

The thesis contends that consideration as to whether Rapoport’s (2003) religious wave is indeed still the existent driver for terrorist behaviour, or if instead we have moved beyond this into the age of what can be best termed a form of ‘identity terrorism’. The reappraisal undertaken in this thesis, placing a variety of actors under scrutiny from a new perspective, clearly shows that the crest of Rapoport’s (2003) religious wave may have passed, and terrorism appears to have moved into new uncharted waters.

The thesis argues that the newly identified commonalities amongst actors present opportunities for counter terrorism professionals to reconsider the partitioned approach to dealing with adherents to what appear radically different ideologies, and instead focus on the individuals espousing their allegiance. The research suggests looking for more macro counter measures targeted on the prevalent characteristics amongst participants rather than tackling the apparently all important group narrative of each contemporary terrorist campaign.