Home Society & Culture “Leaking” Often Signals Islamic Terrorist Attacks in Advance, Finds New Study

“Leaking” Often Signals Islamic Terrorist Attacks in Advance, Finds New Study

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A recent study by Laura Tampe and Rebecca Bondü from the Psychologische Hochschule Berlin has highlighted critical insights into the phenomenon of “leaking” prior to Islamist terrorist attacks in Germany. Published in Terrorism and Political Violence, the study delves into the forms, content, and trajectories of leaking, providing significant data that could enhance preventive measures against such attacks.

Leaking refers to observable statements, behaviours, and expressed interests that signal potential plans for targeted violence. This study analysed prosecution files from 27 Islamist attacks in Germany, involving 48 offenders, and compared them to 52 individuals who exhibited leaking behaviours but did not execute an attack.

The findings reveal that 96% of offenders showed some form of leaking, often repeatedly and over an average period of one year. Most leakings were communicated face-to-face, through observable behaviour, or via chats, with only a small percentage detailing the planned attack. Instead, they generally indicated an interest in similar attacks, signalling a gradual pathway towards an offence.

The study identified various forms of leaking, with verbal communications being the most prevalent (84%), followed by non-verbal cues (26%). Leaking often manifested as direct communications (83%), offence-related behaviours (35%), and interest in weapons or terrorism (30%). Interestingly, only a small fraction involved direct threats or detailed plans for the attack.

The content of leaking varied, with 51% indicating an interest in similar attacks or terrorism, 25% including details of planned attacks, and 25% containing religious quotes justifying violence. Other notable contents included signs of attack preparation (20%) and identification with previous offenders (19%).

Leaking generally began well before the attack, with 89% of offenders showing their first leaking over a month prior, and 41% more than a year before the attack. The temporal analysis revealed distinct stages: early leaking often indicated a desire to travel to terrorist organisations, followed by expressed interest in terrorism, radical attitudes, and eventually, direct intentions to kill and preparatory behaviours.

To differentiate between genuine threats and false alarms, the study introduced the LATERAN-IT (Leaking Assessment Tool for Evaluating the Risk of Attacks by Islamist Terrorists). This tool, developed from the comparative analysis of offenders and the control group, includes 16 criteria that significantly correlate with the likelihood of an attack.

Key criteria include the frequency and type of leaking, content specifics, and additional warning signs of radicalisation. The LATERAN-IT tool provides a structured and empirical method for assessing the seriousness of leaking, aiding law enforcement in identifying potential threats more accurately.

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