With a Little Help from my Friends: an Exploration of the Tactical Use of Single-Actor Terrorism by the Islamic State

Clare Ellis


In recent years there has been a growing focus on the threat from lone-actor terrorists; however, unless used with caution, the term can mask a more complex and nuanced situation. This article argues that in the era of the Islamic State (IS), a dichotomous classification of plots as either networked or ‘lone-actor’ is misleading, obscuring varied degrees of engagement. In addition to inspiring undirected attacks by its supporters, IS has produced a hybrid threat from individual attackers, detached from the broader network but able to benefit from its guidance and, in some cases, logistical support. In light of this finding, this article draws a distinction between inspired lone-actor- and other forms of single-actor- terrorism, offering a new framework for conceptualising individual attackers who act in the name of IS.

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Perspectives on Terrorism is  a journal of the Terrorism Research Initiative and the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies

ISSN  2334-3745 (Online)

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