First published in The Jerusalem Post
Those who are now tasked with investing the terrorist attack at the 2013 Boston Marathon must determine just what sort of attack it was. Was it an instance of organized terrorism, carried out by a local group or cell sent on a mission by an organization headquartered outside the US? Or was it the personal initiative of a lone wolf or a local network unaffiliated in any way with – even if influenced by – a particular terrorist organization? It is too soon to know. However, if we assess the slivers of information already available, it appears that the attack was conducted using small improvised explosive devices; the two devices that exploded were placed very close to one another. We may therefore hazard a calculated guess that this terrible attack was the personal initiative of a local group or a lone wolf who, in this case, succeeded in fulfilling the dream of modern terrorists everywhere: to perpetrate an attack among a condensed crowd of people in the presence of a large contingent of the media. The chosen target – the finish line of the Boston Marathon – provided both of these key variables. Nevertheless, and despite the immense importance of this event to sports enthusiasts from around the world, the Boston Marathon is a local event. The residents of other US states and other countries may barely be aware of when this marathon takes place. It is not an international event commensurate with the Olympics or the Football World Cup. It did not take place at a renowned symbolic site like the World Trade Center or the Empire State Building in New York, or the Pentagon in Washington, DC. This also suggests that the initiative for the attack was local, whether the attack itself was perpetrated by a lone wolf, by a limited network not tied to an established terrorist organization, or even by an independent-minded sleeper cell affiliated with a local or international terrorist organization.
The views expressed in this publication are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT).