Academic journal article Prism : a Journal of the Center for Complex Operations

Right-Wing Extremism and Terrorism in Europe: Current Developments and Issues for the Future

Academic journal article Prism : a Journal of the Center for Complex Operations

Right-Wing Extremism and Terrorism in Europe: Current Developments and Issues for the Future

Article excerpt

Europe has experienced a revival of militant right-wing extremist groups, networks, and incidents in recent years, with a surge of anti-immigration and Islamophobic violence, as well as anti-government attacks and assaults on political opponents, ethnic minorities, and homosexuals. Although not as significant as in Europe, the United States has also seen an upsurge in political violence considered to be "right-wing extremist" in nature (for example, white supremacist, neo-Nazi, racist, or anti-government sovereign citizen). For the international audience, only a few of these incidents gained broad media attention; right-wing extremist attacks are seen mostly as isolated events when compared with other attacks, such as those by Islamist extremist terrorists. In Germany, a right-wing terrorist group calling itself the National Socialist Underground was discovered in 2011. Despite having assassinated at least 10 people and committed 2 bombings over the course of almost 14 years, it had gone undetected. That same year, Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people in a bomb attack in Oslo and a mass shooting in Ut0ya, Norway. In the United States, white supremacist Michael Page shot and killed six people and wounded four others in an attack against a Wisconsin Sikh temple in August 2012. Only one day after Charles Kurzman had argued in the New York Times that right-wing terrorism might be the most severe security threat in the United States, Dylann Roof killed nine people in his shooting rampage at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17, 2015.1 Similar events have been recorded in many Western European countries, as well as in Russia and Eastern Europe. However, the public debate has not ascribed the same level of importance to the threat from the extreme right as it has regularly with Islamist extremism.

Nevertheless, statistics clearly show the significant risk posed by violent right-wing extremists in Western countries. In the United States, for example, the Combating Terrorism Center's Arie Perliger counted 4,420 violent incidents perpetrated by right-wing extremists between 1990 and 2012, causing 670 fatalities and 3,053 injured persons.2 After three peaks in 2001, 2004, and 2008, with each wave surpassing the previous one, the general trend is again upwards.3 Professor Christopher Hewitt's valuable studies about terrorism in the United States also show that "white racist/rightist" terrorism accounts for 31.2 percent of the incidents and 51.6 percent of terrorism-related fatalities between 1954 and 2000, making it the number one threat ahead of "revolutionary left-wing" or "black militant" terrorism.4 In both the United States and Canada, a widespread lack of coherent analysis about the threat posed by extreme right-wing militants stands in stark contrast to the level of concern about such individuals expressed by police officials and other law enforcement agencies.5 As a means of comparison, Islamist and rightwing extremists have caused 45 and 48 casualties in the United States, respectively, since the September 11, 2001 attacks.6

In Europe, academic and official statistics-including the University of Bergen's Terrorism in Western Europe: Events Data (TWEED) and Europol's annual European Union Terrorism Situation and Trend Report (TE-SAT)-show a number of right-wing attacks since World War II.7 TWEED registered 648 right-wing terrorist attacks between 1950 and 2004 (approximately 6 percent of a total of 10,239 attacks), while TE-SAT registered nine such attacks between 2006 and 2013, though only two were in Western Europe. TWEED also reveals three main waves of attacks: France in the early 1960s, Italy in the 1970s, and Germany in the early 1990s. These three nations also dominate the aggregate country share of casualties.8

Regarding the TE-SAT statistics, it is important to note that the national definitions and selection criteria vary significantly and that the vast majority of violent crimes committed by individuals or groups motivated by an extreme right-wing agenda are not categorized as terrorism by Europol, based on the national legal frameworks. …

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