Download the full publication
Written by: Gabriel Weimann and Natalie Masri
The Rise of Far-Right Terrorism
Far-right violence and terrorism are a growing threat to Western societies. Far-right terrorist attacks increased by 320 per cent between 2014 and 2019 according to the 2019 Global Terrorism Index. In 2018 alone, far-right terrorist attacks made up 17.2% of all terrorist incidents in the West, compared to Islamic groups which made up 6.28% of all attacks. In January 2019, the Anti-Defamation League’s Centre on Extremism reported that every extremist killing in the US in 2018 was linked to far-right individuals or organizations. German authorities registered 8,605 right-wing extremist offenses including 363 violent crimes in the first half of 2019. Compared to the first half of 2018, an increase of 900 far-right crimes was recorded during the same period. Far-right terrorism is on average five times deadlier than far-left terrorism, with an average of 0.92 deaths per attack compared to far-left terrorism with 0.17 deaths. Nineteen countries across North America, Western Europe and Oceania have been targeted by far-right attackers. This trend in far-right attacks has led some observers to state that far-right domestic terrorism has not been treated seriously enough in the West and that security and intelligence services should pay closer attention to this emerging threat.
“Far-right” refers to a political ideology that centers on one or more of the following elements: strident nationalism (usually racial or exclusivist in some fashion), fascism, racism, anti-Semitism, anti-immigration, chauvinism, nativism, and xenophobia. Far-right groups are usually strongly authoritarian, but often with populist elements and have historically been anti-communist, although this characteristic has become less prominent since the end of the Cold War. Not all groups or organizations with any one of these characteristics can be considered far right, and not all far-right groups are automatically violent or terroristic. However, terrorist groups with these characteristics and individuals sympathetic to these ideals have been classified as “far-right terrorism”.
Far-right terrorists have a strong inclination to change the established order and favour traditional aptitudes (typically white, heterosexual and Christian) and advocate the forced establishment of authoritarian order. Far-right attacks are also less predictable as perpetrators are typically unaffiliated with a terrorist group, making them harder to detect. Far-right extremists have also shown a long-term interest in acquiring Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) weapons, resulting in several CBRN far-right terrorist plots in Western countries (mostly in the U.S.) which fortunately did not come to fruition. Another development is the phenomenon of individuals taking part in extreme right-wing terrorist plots without previous contacts to the extremist environment, sometimes described as “Hive Terrorism”. All the above appears to show a significant terrorist threat posed by extreme right-wing activists and groups.