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Congressional Research Service: American Jihadist Terrorism: Combating a Complex Threat

Author: Jerome P. Bjelopera
January 30, 2013


"Homegrown violent jihadist activity since 9/11 defies easy categorization. No workable general profile of domestic violent jihadists exists. According to CRS analysis, the 63 plots since 9/11 exhibit four broad themes: a variety of endgames, little stomach for suicide or martyrdom among plotters, successful attacks by lone wolves, and a wide range of capabilities among the plots."

"Homegrown" is the term that describes terrorist activity or plots perpetrated within the United States or abroad by American citizens, legal permanent residents, or visitors radicalized largely within the United States. The term "jihadist" describes radicalized individuals using Islam as an ideological and/or religious justification for their belief in the establishment of a global caliphate, or jurisdiction governed by a Muslim civil and religious leader known as a caliph.

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) estimates that there have been 63 homegrown violent jihadist plots or attacks in the United States since September 11, 2001 (9/11). As part of a muchdiscussed apparent expansion of terrorist activity in the United States, from May 2009 through December 2012, arrests were made for 42 "homegrown," jihadist-inspired terrorist plots by American citizens or legal permanent residents of the United States. Two of these resulted in attacks. Most of the 2009-2012 homegrown plots likely reflect a trend in jihadist terrorist activity away from schemes directed by core members of significant terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda. However, it may be too early to tell how sustained this uptick is. While in 2010 and 2011, there were 12 and 10 plots, respectively, in 2012, eight came to light. Regardless, the apparent spike in such activity after April 2009 suggests that ideologies supporting violent jihad continue to influence some Americans—even if a tiny minority.

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