Violence motivated by white nationalism or hostility towards Muslim immigrants has emerged as a deadlier threat to the U.S. than Islamic terrorism, statistics compiled by the latest annual report of the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) suggest.
Anti-Muslim extremists and adherents of nationalist white supremacy ideology accounted for the largest share of fatal terrorist attacks in the U.S. between 2015 and 2019, according to the GTD report, presented at a webinar Thursday.
“[There was] a sharp increase in racially and ethnically motivated terrorist attacks, many of which were motivated by white supremacy, xenophobia and anti-immigrant beliefs,” GTD program manager Erin Miller told the webinar.
In the 2015-2019 period, U.S. white nationalist groups were held responsible for 34 separate attacks, resulting in 64 deaths. Anti-Muslim extremists were linked to 32 attacks resulting in five deaths.
Since the terror attacks of 9-11, Jihadi extremists have accounted for about 50 deaths through November, 2019.
The webinar, hosted by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), was also told that racially and ethnically motivated terrorism increased worldwide in 2019, causing more than 80 deaths in Australia, North America and Western Europe.
The GTD is an open-source information service that includes intelligence on more than 113,000 domestic and international terrorist events around the world since 1970.
The GTD update also tracked the use of firearms in terrorist attacks in the U.S. and Western Europe from 2015-2019.
In the U.S., although firearms were involved in just 27 percent of total terrorist attacks, they were responsible for 95 percent of the deaths.
In Western Europe, 12 percent of terrorist attacks were gun-related, but were responsible for 68 percent of victim deaths.
The report is the latest to register the rising threat from domestic terrorist activity linked to white hate groups.
In 2018, the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism reported that “white supremacists have killed more people in recent years than any other type of domestic extremists.”
A Brookings Institution report in 2019 found that hate crimes have increased in the U.S. since the election of President Donald Trump.
According to an expert at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, white nationalist groups are now exploiting the rising influence of the Black Lives Matter movement to stoke fear and anger among their hard-core supporters.
“Armed white supremacists and far-right militants have made appearances at dozens of the recent Black Lives Matter and police accountability protests following the killing of George Floyd, claiming various roles,” Michael German, a fellow with the Brennan Center’s Liberty & National Security Program, said in testimony earlier this week before the Oregon Legislative assembly.
“Some have claimed to support law enforcement or [protect] business owners from the protesters, others to support the protesters from police violence.”
The evidence of white nationalist activity during the protests paints a sharply contrasting narrative to recent claims by the White House that the far-left and supporters of the “antifa” (anti-fascist) movement are the real terrorist threat.
“In recent days our nation has been gripped by professional anarchists, violent mobs, arsonists, looters, criminals, rioters, antifa, and others,” President Trump said last month.
He vowed later to designate the “antifa” movement as domestic terrorists, although there has been no evidence that antifa protesters are responsible for any significant violence during the protests.
Editor’s Note: The 2020 GTD lecture was recorded and will soon be available for viewing at https://www.start.umd.edu
TCR reporting intern Sara Rose George contributed to this report