News From Terre Haute, Indiana

April 17, 2013

ISU professor says lone-wolf terrorist could be responsible for Boston bombings

Says bombings have been ‘brewing’

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — On Monday afternoon, Indiana State University professor Mark Hamm was lecturing about the threat of Somalian lone-wolf terrorism in the United States when students told him about the deadly explosions at the Boston Marathon.

Lone wolf terrorism is something that Hamm studies, and he says a lone-wolf terrorist could be responsible for Monday’s bombings, which killed three and injured more than 170.

Monday’s attack was “extremely vicious” and “cold-blooded,” said Hamm, a criminology professor and terrorism expert. He has written two books on Tim McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing.

As the name suggests, lone wolf terrorists act alone, he said. “They mix their own failings and frustrations with larger political grievances,” he said. “They mix personal issues with extremist messages they get on the Internet and put them together.”

Because they work alone, “They don’t need to answer to anyone, they can design their plans independently and they can work on it all they want,” he said. And, “There is no threat of anyone snitching.”

One reason terrorist groups fall apart is because of in-fighting, he said.

“I wouldn’t rule out a loan wolf by any means,” he said. “The U.S. leads the world in lone wolf terrorism.”

He believes what happened Monday in Boston has been “brewing.” While it’s been nearly 12 years since 9/11, there have been some failed terrorist attacks since then — an attempt to blow up an airplane in 2009 and a failed bombing in Times Square in 2010.

“My concern is that the terrorism threat morphs. It evolves … it goes from al-Qaeda  to lone wolves to small packs,” he said.

The responsible party for Monday’s attack in Boston could fall under several categories: an al Qaeda-organized group; a foreign lone wolf; an American-organized domestic terrorist group or an American lone wolf.

“Maybe it’s not even terrorism,” he said.

Lone, unaffiliated killers might commit such a heinous act for personal vengeance or to achieve notoriety, he said.

When the Oklahoma City bombing happened nearly 20 years ago, there were basically two options — foreign and domestic terrorism, he said. “Now, there are a half dozen options on the table,” he said.

It could involve Americans influenced by international ideology and web sites, such as the group al Shabaab, a Somalian-based cell of the militant Islamist group al-Qaeda.

Al Shabaab, which means “the youth,” has recruited in the U.S., Hamm said. Members of the Somalian terrorist group consider themselves students of bin Laden, he said.

They have done suicide bombings in Somalia, he said, and they do ascribe to jihad against “enemies of Islam.

They also have called for the bombing of large sporting events in the U.S., he said. “That threat has been out there and our security is well aware of it,” Hamm said.

Hamm does believe that what happened Monday needs to be put in perspective. “We still have to remember, terrorism is highly unlikely to happen,” he said. “It’s blown way out of proportion in relative terms.”

He doesn’t mean to diminish the losses and tragedy that occurred Monday, he said. Yet, “We give far more attention to terrorist attacks than any other types of crime.”

Many young black people are being killed in Chicago, and it does not receive “near the attention,” he said.

“We give more attention to terrorism than other types of crime because we don’t understand it,” he said. Political acts of violence are perceived as more threatening, he said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.