Terrorists and Targets: - A Relationship Founded on Bad Intentions, Limited Capacities and Risk Willingness
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- PhD theses (SV-IMS) 
Original versionTerrorists and Targets: - A Relationship Founded on Bad Intentions, Limited Capacities and Risk Willingness by Cato Yaakov Hemmingby, Stavanger : University of Stavanger, 2021 (PhD thesis UiS, no. 471)
This thesis elaborates on the complex relationship between terrorists and the targets they attack. There are at least three main reasons for the complexity: each case, with the people involved therein, is unique; moreover, many factors may affect terrorist decision-making. Furthermore, most terrorists can choose between a number of targets. Therefore, a comprehensive approach is a prerequisite for research in this area. The starting point here is that terrorists in general must be considered rational actors. I analyse the dynamic interaction between four main components that affect terrorists’ target selection: Ideology, strategy, internal factors (characteristics or capacities possessed by the terrorist actor), and external factors (variables outside the terrorists’ control). This categorisation is sensible for sorting the factors of influence, but in order to identify correlations between variables and arrive at a deeper understanding, casestudy process-tracing has been applied. Situational analysis of plot scenarios and conducted attacks, with a systematic focus on offender(s), target(s) and situational context, also represent an essential part of this work. There are three main objectives for this thesis. I present a generic theoretical and methodological approach for qualitative research on terrorist targeting. I apply the above-mentioned approach to the 22 July 2011 attacks in Norway, tracing the terrorist’s target selection process in detail. I also analyse the targeting preferences of militant Islamists operating in Western Europe from 1994 to 2016. In addition to target types, this study focuses on the terrorists’ casualty focus, soft versus hard target preferences and the degree of target discrimination – all central issues in the context of public security. The two concrete part studies are not comparative, but they exemplify how the generic theoretical and methodological approach can be applied both to single and multiple case studies, on terrorist actors from different ideological directions and on different levels of analysis. A such the two part studies are complementary. Regarding the 22 July 2011 attacks in Norway, Anders Behring Breivik was not the typical lone actor terrorist. The long timeline of his terrorist operation, his hideous strategy, the mass-casualty focus and the brutality demonstrated at Utøya were beyond what most lone actor terrorists could do. His megalomaniac personality influenced several of these factors, but if we leave the aberrant characteristics and skills of Breivik aside, he was quite average in other ways. His background, radicalization process and ideological foundation were not that unusual. Also, his operational phase was not without its flaws. This research shows that even the ruthless terrorist Breivik was affected by an overarching framework and constraints of various kinds. His customised right-wing ideology set the scene. He took both the inner (those responsible for immigration) and the outer enemies (the Muslims) into consideration, but chose to attack the inner enemy. The public rage following a racist killing in 2001 affected his decision. Breivik’s strategy of a massive “shock attack” was related to his narcissistic personality and striving for attention. Moreover, his lack of empathy enabled him to conduct the barbaric actions. Breivik’s decision to act alone, his focus on one political party only, and the fact that he discarded individual assassinations, were also important decisions. Breivik’s limited operational background was compensated for by a high level of motivation, persistence and thoroughness in terms of the bombmaking. The fact that he miscalculated the time needed to find a farm and only managed to make one bomb did, however, affect his plans significantly. Moreover, his financial situation worsened during 2011, and he also made practical mistakes during the operation. Regarding external factors, the terrorist took advantage of a peaceful society. The long process of closing the Grubbegata street in the Government Quarter symbolises how distant the terrorist threat was to different decision-makers at the time. This was exploited by Breivik. He also had the advantage of operating on home ground. Breivik experienced that terrorist operations are dynamic and not fully controllable. He became frustrated and pragmatic, as the Utøya attack proves. The Labour Party and the media represented the most attractive targets for Breivik, but in the end, the media was not attacked. Constraints derailed the terrorist from this part-goal, leading him to attack only the Labour party. It is also a paradox that the shooting attack at Utøya outbid Breivik’s number one priority target – the Government Quarter – regarding the death tolls.
PhD thesis in Risk management and societal safety
PublisherUniversity of Stavanger, Norway
SeriesPhD thesis UiS;