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VOL. XVIII, Issue 1

Still Aiming at the Harder Targets: An Update on Violent Non-State Actors’ Use of Armed UAVs

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), often referred to as drones, are integrated into the repertoire of both state and violent non-state actors (VNSAs). This Research Note updates the findings presented in a 2020 article published in Perspectives on Terrorism, and presents descriptive statistics on violent non-state actors’ use of armed UAVs. This research has, through open sources, identified 1,122 incidents where VNSAs have used armed UAVs in attacks. The UAV attacks are recorded across the globe, from Mexico and Ecuador, through the Middle East and North Africa, to Myanmar. However, 91.3 percent  of the attacks occurred in the Middle East and North Africa. The majority of UAV attacks are directed at hard targets, such as military targets. However, the Houthis in Yemen stand out as a VNSA more willing to attack civilian infrastructure, such as airports, energy infrastructure, and the commercial shipping industry, using UAVs as a strategic weapon. The showcasing of UAVs’ potential in combat and conflict by state and non-state actors through media and social media is likely to influence actors who have yet to incorporate UAVs into their repertoire.

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.…