In order to prevent or counter terrorism, we need to understand existing threats and anticipate new ones, focusing on groups and movements with all kinds of ideologies and worldviews. Both policymakers shaping CT strategies and front-line practitioners must be informed by evidence-based threat assessments and knowledge of the efficacy of current/past approaches.

To that end, ICCT’s Current and Emerging Threats-programme develops a thorough understanding of the various ideologies and worldviews that drive those who commit terrorist or extremist violence. Also, we analyse why these ideologies and worldviews attract followers, and we examine what factors other than political views draw people into terrorist/extremist groups or movements.

But our research in this programme doesn’t end with the motivation of terrorists and extremists. We are not only interested in the ‘why’, but also in the ‘what’ and the ‘how’. Our research is therefore also focused on how terrorists run and finance their day-to-day operations, how they recruit new members and how they plan and commit their attacks.

Knowledge regarding these various aspects of terrorist and extremist actors also helps us in another research priority, namely the assessment of the (expected) effectiveness of counterterrorism measures. Given the importance of the social context for terrorist and counterterrorist campaigns, we also take into account unintended and spillover effects on the population.

Our Work

REPORT: Cashing in on Guns: Identifying the Nexus between Small Arms, Light Weapons and Terrorist Financing

This report presents the main findings of ICCT’s year-long research project on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) as a source of terrorism financing. Chapters 2 and 3 take a regional focus and explore this phenomenon in respectively West Africa and the Middle East. Chapter 4 then investigates the possible role that DDR programmes can play in reducing SALW flows. Chapter 5 assesses the existing legal and policy frameworks from a multitude of angles. Chapter 6 reflects on the short and long-term implications the possession and identified use of SALW by terrorist groups has for Europe. The final chapter considers the various direct and indirect ways through which terrorists are ‘Cashing in on Guns’, and lists a number of policy recommendations for the EU to take a step forward in addressing this phenomenon.

PUBLICATION: Normalisation, party politics and vigilantism: Why the next terrorist wave will not be right-wing extremist

The right-wing extremist terrorist attacks in the last three years have led many to designate right-wing extremist terrorism as the next major terrorist threat. This paper will argue that for large parts of the West such concerns are misguided for two main reasons. First, right-wing extremists lack the organisational clout to generate a wave of terrorist attacks that is on a par with the wave of jihadist terrorism in the West in recent years. Second, right-wing extremists have displayed a preference for other tactics; many of these tactics are non-violent, and even when they are violent, they are not necessarily terrorist in nature. We should acknowledge the importance of these other tactics and not make the mistake of viewing right-wing extremism as another form of terrorism, as that will lead to a fundamental misunderstanding of what the threat of right-wing extremism entails.

PUBLICATION: The Fate of the Perpetrator in the Jihadist Modus Operandi: Suicide Attacks and Non-Suicide Attacks in the West, 2004-2017

Suicide attacks have long been considered the hallmark of jihadist terrorism, but the truth is that the increase in the number of jihadist terrorist attacks in the West after about 2011 can be accounted for by increases in different types of terrorist attacks. The number of suicide attacks remains fairly constant throughout the time period that has been examined in this report (2004-2017), but there are strong increases in what one could call self-preserving attacks (attacks in which the perpetrator is trying to survive) and suicidal attacks (attacks in which the perpetrator does not kill himself, but rather tries to get police officers or military personnel to kill him). This dual trend towards suicidal and self-preserving attacks might be related to the increase in the number of lone-actor terrorists, who generally have a preference for weapon types that are easier to acquire and use than the IEDs that are typically used in suicide attacks. As suicidal terrorists will attack security forces and self-preserving attackers will try to escape, the operational response to these kinds of attacks should be different from the response to a suicide attack. It is important that protocols and training scenarios are adjusted to reflect the increases in self-preserving and suicidal attacks.

PUBLICATION: CTRL, HATE, PRINT: Terrorists and the appeal of 3D-printed weapons

Considering recent developments, this perspective investigates whether 3D-printed weapons represent a game-changer for the manufacturing of improvised firearms, before briefly investigating the legality of these firearms in various jurisdictions. Instances of terrorist use of 3D-printed firearms are discussed along with factors that may impede and promote the adoption of this technology.

PUBLICATION: The Christchurch Attack Report: Key Takeaways on Tarrant’s Radicalization and Attack Planning

Through a careful examination of the Christchurch attack report, and supplemented by academic research, the authors of this perspective provide a unique analysis of the three main elements of the attack.

PUBLICATION: The Islamic State’s Global Insurgency and its Counterstrategy Implications Violence

At the dawn of its caliphate, the Islamic State’s global pretensions were limited to being the premier destination for foreign “travellers,” but we now understand that the caliphate was more than a destination: it was to be the foundation for a more rigorous transmission of global jihad. The collapse of its political project affords us an opportunity to reassess the Islamic State movement. Today its underground insurgency is the flagship of a political enterprise consisting of formal and aspiring affiliates dotting the Middle East, Africa and Asia while coordinating and inspiring terror operations abroad. We present a conceptual framework through which to understand how the Islamic State’s network of insurgent affiliates operates, based on an analysis of its attack data and primary sources. When we assess the bureaucratic fluidity of its structure in both time and place, combined with a wide ranging spectrum of relationships with affiliates and networks far and wide, the adhocratic nature of the Islamic State enterprise emerges and demands attention as we try to understand the role its structure and management influences its resilience as a global movement.

Core Staff

Teun van Dongen
Programme Lead, Current and Emerging Threats

As Programme Lead, Teun leads ICCT’s efforts to monitor, analyse and research various forms of extremism and terrorism, including the ideologies, structure and modus operandi of extremist groups and movements.

Eviane Leidig
Research Fellow, Current and Emerging Threats

Eviane’s research focuses on far right extremism, gender, and online recruitment, radicalisation, and propaganda. Her regional expertise includes India, North America, and Europe.

Joshua Farrell-Molloy
Intern, Current and Emerging Threats

Joshua’s research interests focus on foreign fighters, online extremist subcultures, and the far-right. He has previously worked on projects relating to foreign fighters, the dynamics between Australia’s political fringes on Twitter, and leftist gun culture on Instagram.

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