Profiling Lone-Actor Terrorists: A Cross-Sectional Study of Lone-actor Terrorists in Western Europe (2015–2016)

Lone-actor terrorism is a growing threat in Western European countries as the numbers of lone-actor terrorist attacks have multiplied over the last 15 years. However, knowledge on this type of terrorism is insufficient. This current study evaluates whether there are any common personal, social, psychological, and operational characteristics among lone-actor terrorists (LATs) and whether any profile can be drawn in regard to a lone-actor terrorist. The authors identified 36 LATs between January 1, 2015, and December 31, 2016, in Western European countries through the Global Terrorism Database. The study profiled these LATs regarding their sociodemographic characteristics, attack characteristics, method of radicalization, ideology, modus operandi, and typology. Findings of this study show that lone-actor terrorism in Western Europe has undergone new changes, and although there is no single unique profile for LATs, there are common characteristics that warrant further studies.