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Solo terrorists and the threat they represent. Research fellow / senior advisor Cato Hemmingby Norwegian Police University College / Norwegian Government Security and Service Organization. Conducted attacks in W-Europe 1991-2013. Cato Hemmingby 2013. Lethality.

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solo terrorists and the threat they represent

Solo terrorists and the threat they represent

Research fellow / senior advisor Cato Hemmingby

Norwegian Police University College /

Norwegian Government Security and Service Organization

  • A few individualsconducted many attacks, but many attacks do not necessarily mean many people killed.
  • Limited lethality:
    • 14 perpertratorskilled 91 persons in 94 attacks: 0,968
    • ABB ex.: 13 perp. killed 14 persons in 92 attacks: 0,152
  • Oneincident may have great impact on statistics.
  • Attacks where a numberofpeoplegetkilledoccur from time to time.


solo terrorists as a challenge
Solo terrorists as a challenge

Solo terrorists represent a constant, butveryunclear and unpredictablethreat.

  • The onlycertainthing is that it willhappenagain.
  • Probablythe most difficult terrorist threatto detect.
  • Police and security services are in many cases dependingonthe first indication from theoutside- typically from theperson’sclosesurroundings.


conclusion from scandinavia 2008 2013
Conclusion from Scandinavia 2008-2013
  • Thirteen plots and attacks in all.
  • All sevengroup plots disrupted, none loneattackersdetected.
  • The onlyones «successful» wereMangs and Breivik - the pure solo terrorists.


  • Eightoutofthirteen plots and attacksweredirectlylinked to Mohammed cartoons.
  • Only one attack was of an indiscriminate nature.
innovative creative and sophisticated
Innovative, creative and sophisticated
  • Innovation: Featuringnewmethods or original ideas so there is a change to somethingestablished.
  • Creative: Relating to or involvingimagination or original ideas in order to create or achievesomething.
  • Sophisticated: Awareof and able to interpret complexissues.
how to measure this
How to measurethis?

Cato Hemmingby 2013

not innovative often sophisticated enough
Not innovative, oftensophisticatedenough
  • Solo terrorists are not innovative.
  • A fewarecreative and sophisticated to a lowdegree, most areon an intermediateleveland veryfewareon a highlevel.
  • A certaindegreeofsophistication is enough.
  • Theytend to do some smart things, but most also do elementarymistakes.
peter mangs the malm shooter
PETER MANGS – The Malmö shooter
  • Right-wingideology
  • A numberofattacks in 2003, 2009 and 2010
  • Targeted immigrants
  • Convicted for twomurders and eightattemptedmurders.
background and targeting logic
Background and targetinglogic
  • Background:
    • Somepsychologicalissues.
    • Averageperformance in primary and secondaryschool.
    • No militaryservice. Expressedinterest for the Home Guard.
    • Interests: Music, taekwondo and pistol shooting.
    • Former Left Party member.
  • Targetinglogic:
    • Immigrants
    • Criminals
weapons and method of attack
Weaponsand methodofattack
  • LicensedGlock 9mm, two x-trabarrels++
  • Combat vest and disguises
  • Close quarter attacks
  • Shooting at buildings

Photo: Swedishpolice

pre attack conduct
  • Smart set-up withextraGlock pistol barrels.
  • Lots ofmapping and researchonInternet.
  • Retrievedinformation from courtdocuments.
  • Poorreconnaissance. Shotintowrongapartmentsontwooccasions. On severaloccasionshelooked up theresidenceof a man whowas in prison.
execution of attack
  • Used cartridgeshellcollector.
  • Leftcartridgeshells from otherweaponsonthe scene.
  • Leftcartridgeshells in other spots thanthe firing position.
  • However, hedid not always do a goodjobof it.

Photo: Swedishpolice

post attack conduct
  • False tip-offcall to police in 2003.
  • He talkedaboutattacksto a fewfriends.
  • Incriminating data oncomputers and phones.
  • Twoitemsfrom themurder in 2003 found in 2010.
  • He didnot hideweaponparts and equipmentwell.


timeline and patterns
Timeline and patterns
  • Shotboth men and women.
  • Operated in a limited area.
  • No attacks in theperiod from 2004 to 2008.
  • High frequency in 2009/2010.
  • Targetedbothonchance and by choice.
  • Attempted some individuals more than once.
  • On two occasions he conducted two attacks within hours.


summary on mangs
  • Rathertypicalbackground.
  • Close surroundingsknewof his extremistviews.
  • Creative set-up with two unlicensed barrels.
  • Variable performance as heexecutedattacks.
  • It waseasy to link him to a series ofattackswhensuspicion first wasraised.
  • In general, solo terrorism is a low-frequency and low-lethalityphenomenon.
  • From time to time, single incidentstakemany lives.
  • Solo terrorists arevery hard to detect.
  • Most display creativity and sophisticationon an intermediatelevel, but most also do basicmistakes.

Solo terrorists willcontinue to representa constant, butveryunclearand unpredictablethreat.

research fellow cato hemmingby email cathem@phs no
Research fellow Cato Hemmingby