New research on terrorism in Melbourne and elsewhere

I’ve had some new work published, as have some of my former GTReC colleagues.

My new Security Challenges article examines the idea of virtually planned terrorist attacks, and uses it to help explain the 2015 Anzac plot in Melbourne and potential future plots:

The Role of Virtual Planners in the 2015 Anzac Day Terror Plot, Security Challenges, Volume 13, Issue 1, 2017. (open access)

This case study shows how the 2015 Anzac Day terror plot resulted from virtual planning, which is an operational method the Islamic State has used widely since 2014. The article traces how the Melbourne-based perpetrator received online instructions on four components of the intended attack: choosing targets, making tactical preparations, maintaining commitment, and ensuring publicity. The article demonstrates the importance of the concept of virtual planning for understanding Australia’s current terror threat and examines aspects of the plot, particularly the involvement of a UK-based juvenile, valuable for understanding the Islamic State’s ability to initiate violence in Australia and elsewhere.

I also discussed virtual planning, and some other aspects of the IS threat, last week on Radio National’s The World Today.

Joe Ilardi has written an article on the Melbourne-based terrorist cell disrupted by Operation Pendennis in 2005, based on interviews with an undercover police officer who befriended the cell’s leader:

A Homegrown Terrorist Cell: Observations of a Police Undercover Operative, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, published online 16 June 2017. (paywalled)

On 10 October 2004, an improvised explosive device was detonated in bush land in the vicinity of Mount Disappointment on the outskirts of Melbourne, Australia. A relatively small device, it was assembled and detonated by one of the two men present, a Victoria Police officer and undercover operative known as Security Intelligence Officer 39, or SIO39. The other person was the leader of a homegrown terrorist cell, who in the months preceding had assembled a group of a dozen individuals who became the subject of Australia’s largest counterterrorism investigation known as Operation Pendennis. This article, which is based on in-depth interviews with SIO39, provides unique insights into a range of activities and behaviors peculiar to this cohort. Commencing his association with the group early in its development, SIO39 was privy to some of its key evolutionary stages, from a collection of individuals meeting more or less in the open, to a clandestine body that clearly harbored terrorist intent and undertook a number of overt acts to advance its violent objectives.

Pete Lentini has also written a new article on this terrorist cell, taking a sociology of religion approach, which should be published this year:

The Neojihadist Cell as a Religious Organization: A Melbourne Jema’ah Case Study, Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, Volume 30, Issue 1, 2017. (in press)

Moving away from Australia, Debra Smith has written this groundbreaking article on emotions and terrorism:

So How Do You Feel about That? Talking with Provos about Emotion, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, published online 1 June 2017. (open access)

Participation in political violence draws on identities and world views that have been shaped and influenced by emotion. This article uses data drawn from interviews conducted with 15 former members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army to highlight some of the ways that emotion is intertwined with decisions to use violence in pursuit of a substate political goal. Six themes emerge that help to demonstrate how participant’s emotional lives have helped to build the identities, beliefs, and motivations that have led to violent acts. The study illuminates how the experience, elicitation, and management of emotions played an integral role in the participant’s trajectory towards violence.


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