Arkansas study: International terrorists strike close |

Arkansas study: International terrorists strike close

LITTLE ROCK ” Investigators searching for international terrorists who plot and carry out attacks in the United States should first look close to home, a new study shows.

The study by the University of Arkansas’ Terrorism Research Center found those terrorists likely live within 30 miles of their targets and often need six months or more to prepare. That information could prove valuable to local police, who might be able to connect precursor crimes like explosive thefts to an impending attack, said Brent Smith, director of the research center.

“We don’t whether these people, most of them are new immigrants maybe, live in particular areas … become radicalized and select a target fairly near to where they reside or select a target and move intentionally to that location,” said Smith, chair of the university’s department of sociology and criminal justice. However, “the patterns are remaining pretty consistent. What we’re finding is that international terrorists tend to engage in much more preparatory conduct than do other kind of terrorists.”

The study, looking at terrorist attacks from 1980 to 2002, found the opposite true for right-wing terrorists. Instead, those terrorists prepare at home but strike at targets symbolizing the “pollutants of urban life” ” gay bars, stores selling pornography and abortion clinics, Smith said.

Environmental terrorism groups like the Family, which firebombed a ski resort in Vail, Colo., also strike close to home. However, Smith said research showed such groups often only took only a few days to prepare for an attack.

The reason for the short preparations are twofold, Smith said. Environmental groups often use unstable, homemade explosives that can’t be stored for long periods of time. The group also pick targets of convenience, like the arsons earlier this year of several multimillion dollar show homes north of Seattle allegedly committed by the Earth Liberation Front.

“If you engage in eco-tage or arson, it simply doesn’t require as much preparatory conduct as it does if you’re going to say bomb the World Trade Center,” Smith said.

“The bombing technique, the incendiary device, they’re much simpler if you’re engaging in burning a bunch of SUVs at a dealership than if you’re going to try to blow up a federal building.”

The study says some preparatory crimes, such as robberies and weapons thefts, happen hundreds of miles away, likely to avoid drawing attention to the terrorists, Smith said.

Smith said the study provides a push for local police to keep their eyes open and provide the FBI and other federal agents information in the aftermath of attacks.

However, he acknowledged the worst terrorist attack against the U.S. ” the Sept. 11 hijackings ” were planned from multiple countries and states.

“That’s one of the salient characteristics of terrorism ” it’s indeed quite unpredictable,” Smith said. “Our goal was to kind of see if there was some predictability to it and we think we’ve found something.”

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