Lone Wolf Attacks Like Charleston Hard To Detect And Prevent


The shooting of nine people by a white gunman inside a Charleston, S.C., black church comes amid a recent surge in violent hate groups and incidents where “lone wolf” attacks are increasingly common, groups that monitor hate crimes tell USA Today. Police arrested Dylann Roof, 21, for allegedly opening fire Wednesday evening and killing nine people. Roof’s Facebook page showed photos of him wearing a jacket with the patches of flags popular with modern-day white supremacists of apartheid-era South Africa and Rhodesia, the former Zimbabwe. A March study from the Southern Poverty Law Center of “lone wolf” and “leaderless resistance” political violence found that just one or two people carried out 90 percent of domestic attacks or planned attacks in the past six years. Lone wolf attacks are often difficult to detect and prevent, as assailants are able to hide their intentions right up to the day of attack, said center president Richard Cohen.

“Unfortunately there are thousands of young men like (Roof) who are looking for an identity larger than themselves,” he said. “We’ve seen a drifting away from organized white supremacy and the prevalence of lone wolf attacks.” In 2013, nearly 2,300 hate crimes were directed against African Americans, down from 2,600 in 2010, according to the FBI. “The majority of these incidents involve only one or two victims at a time, so they often don’t rise to media attention or engage a debate about terrorism,” said J.M. Berger, a terrorism analyst. The number of extreme-right hate groups, which include white supremacists and anti-government militias, and criminal incidents from the groups have surged since 2009, said Mark Pitcavage, director of investigative research of the Anti-Defamation League. The surge is mostly fueled by anti-government groups, which proliferated following the 2008 election of President Obama.

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