Pathways to terror: finding patterns prior to an attack
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To ascertain whether terrorist attacks follow an observable pattern in their pre-attack activities this study first divides the terrorists’ pre-attack activities into nine phases: networking, training, general planning, attack-specific recruitment, financing, operational planning, weapons procurement, logistical preparation, and operational preparation. With these phases in mind, we then examine a range of terrorism events and identify when each of these phases occurred. We have found that the cases follow a general pattern, yet there are outliers to the pattern. In general, however, the phases we identified do seem to represent a necessary order. Some broad plan, along with networking and general training occur usually more than a year before an attack and are necessary before recruiting and financing can occur, which usually happens between six months and a year before an attack. Finally, operational planning, weapons procurement, logistical preparation, and operational preparation occur closest to the attack, typically only a few months before it occurs. This general progression is robust across types and scales of attacks and suggests that it might be used as an indication of the timing of possible future attacks.
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