Perspectives on Terrorism is an initiative of the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism. Visit website
VOL. XVIII, Issue 2

Attrition and Provocation: Subnational Variation in Terrorist Targeting

Recent studies have examined the strategic logic of terrorist targeting. We advance this research by studying a broader category of terrorist groups and argue that they select government and civilian targets based on several strategic considerations, such as local state capacity and regime type. The empirical analyses include all geocoded terrorist attacks in the world between 1990 and 2014. We find that local state capacity plays a vital role in terrorist target selection. However, the effect of the local setting on terrorist targeting appears conditional on a country’s regime type. In democratic states, terrorists primarily strike civilian targets in urban settings but attack government and security personnel more frequently in rural environments. In autocratic states, terrorists are more likely to target government and security personnel when they operate in urban areas. More notably, the increase in civilian targeting from rural to urban areas in democratic states is nearly twice as high as in autocratic regimes. The findings in this study have important implications for various disciplines across the field

About ICCT

The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT) is a think-and-do tank based in The Hague, Netherlands. We provide research, policy advice, training and other solutions to support better counter-terrorism policies and practices worldwide. We also contribute to the scientific and publi.…