White supremacists and other like-minded groups have carried out the majority of terrorist attacks in the United States this year, according to a report by a security think tank that echoed warnings issued by the Department of Security interior this month.
The report, released Thursday by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, found that white supremacist groups were responsible for 41 of 61 “terrorist plots and attacks” in the first eight months of this year, or 67 percent.
The discovery comes about two weeks after an annual Department of Homeland Security assessment warned that violent white supremacy was “the most persistent and deadly threat in the country” and that white supremacists were the deadliest of all. national terrorists in recent years.
Researchers at the think tank found that threats of violence were in part linked to this year’s mass protests and clashes with protesters from various factions. The report states that “far-left and far-right violence are deeply intertwined” and that far-left groups, including anarchists and anti-fascist organizations, are responsible for 12 attacks and plots so far this year, i.e. 20% of the total number, compared to 8% in 2019.
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The report highlighted several cases, including fatal shootings linked to protests and the arrest by the FBI of 13 men accused of plotting to kidnap the governor of Michigan, a Democrat. These cases, along with President Trump’s denunciations of left-wing activists and his refusal during a presidential debate to condemn a far-right group, have repeatedly raised fears of politically motivated violence this year.
“Part of the problem that we are seeing is that people coming together, whether for protests or other issues, in the cities, is that it has basically brought extremists from all walks of life nearby,” said Seth Jones, Director of Transnational. Threats project in the center. “We have seen people on all sides armed, and this raises concerns about the escalation of violence in American cities.”
The report also linked the threat of violence to the country’s busy politics, the coronavirus pandemic and its financial fallout. He warned that violence could increase after the presidential election due to growing polarization, growing economic challenges, concerns about racial injustice and the persisting health risks of coronaviruses.
He said if Democratic presidential candidate Joseph R. Biden Jr. wins the election, white supremacists could rally, with targets likely to be blacks, Latinos, Jews and Muslims. A Republican presidential victory could involve violence from large-scale protests, according to the report.
There were encouraging signs. The death toll from domestic terrorism has been relatively low so far this year, compared to some periods in US history.
Five deaths have been caused by domestic terrorism in the first eight months of this year, compared to the past five years, in which the total number of deaths has ranged from 22 to 66.
The study attributed the lower number of deaths to effective intervention by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.
The relatively low death toll resulting from a high number of terrorist incidents showed that extremists this year wanted to send messages through threats and intimidation, according to the report. Many incidents involved vehicles or weapons, so there was a high potential for deaths, but “an apparent lack of will,” he said.
Of the five deadly attacks this year, the report attributes one in Portland, Ore., To an activist affiliated with the cowardly far-left movement known as the “antifa”; one in Austin, Texas, to a man described as an “extreme right-wing extremist”; one in New Jersey to an “anti-feminist”; and two in California to a man linked to the so-called Boogaloo movement, an anti-government group whose members seek to exploit public unrest to incite a race war.
In an endnote, researchers said they had not classified the shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, which killed two protesters in August, as a terrorist attack. They said the person charged with the shooting, a teenager whose social media accounts showed strong support for the police, “had no clear political motive for the killings.”
Mr Jones said the number of small structured groups had increased over the past two years, as part of a larger increase in organized violence recently compared to the 1960s and 1970s, when attacks tended to be led by relatively decentralized extremists.
A continued increase in organized violence in the United States, perpetrated by groups with sophisticated training and fundraising structures, Jones said, would be “a development of great concern.”
Protesters have been targeted in a large percentage of attacks by far-right and far-left groups, according to the report.
Bruce Hoffman, a professor at Georgetown University specializing in terrorism and insurgency, said the number of attacks directed against protesters was alarming.
“It is of fundamental concern that Americans who exercise their right to freedom of assembly and speech during protests are increasingly targeted.” said Hoffman, who was not involved in the centre’s report. “I think all Americans must find this worrying. This is not our country. “