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Defining Lone Wolf Terrorism: Discussion takes place at ISU

Seats were filled by many to take part in a discussion about terrorism, some still numb by the events in Las Vegas just one day before.

Posted: Oct 4, 2017 4:54 AM
Updated: Oct 4, 2017 4:54 AM

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - It was a packed room inside Dede I at Indiana State University.

Seats were filled by many to take part in a discussion about terrorism, some still numb by the events in Las Vegas just one day before.

"It's a pure act of evil," said Alyaa Malibari, graduate student, "It's happening in the United States, which is my second country, but it's also happening in my first country Saudi Arabia."

As the numbers continue to climb among the injured and deceased, students are having a hard time making sense of the tragedy.

"It makes me scared to live day by day basically," said Danielle Rodgers, senior, "I go to at least two or three concerts every single year, and knowing that could be me, or something like that, is really scary."

"No one is safe anywhere basically," said Thomas Starks, sophomore, "Anything can happen."

Police describe Stephen Paddock, the shooter in the attack, as a possible "lone wolf". 

Monday's discussion on identifying different aspects of terrorism spent a deal of time on defining lone wolf and breaking down statistics. 

For Dr. Mark Hamm, a criminology professor at ISU, he says he's not sure if Paddock can be classified as a lone wolf since a motive has not been released. 

However, the statistics behind Lone Wolf Terrorism itself, Hamm says, is alarming.

"We've got 17 intelligence agencies in the United States," he said, "Every single one of them recognizes that this lone wolf phenomenon, it potentially is the greatest threat to American security." 

Though lone wolves design and carry their attacks alone, Hamm says, the individual is politically motivated and does not have an affiliation with a specific terrorist group. 

"They do not take any sort of orders from a terrorist group, they're not trained by a terrorist group and have no direct command or structure involved with an overall terrorist organization," he said, "These are people with very deeply held political views, who translate their political views into violence."

In Hamm's presentation, he identified several characteristics in lone wolves after 9/11. Statistics showed common identifiers like unemployment, criminal backgrounds or mental illness. Numbers also showed an increase in lone wolves since 9/11 as well.

A reason for an increase in numbers, Hamm says, is due to access to guns.

"Since 9/11, 98 percent of the victims of lone wolf terrorism have been killed or wounded by firearms," he said, "and so the access to firearms here in the United States is relatively easy for lone wolves to take, carry out these attacks."

Hamm also noted points of prevention in his presentation, a few signs to watch out for include oversharing and overarming.

"If someone is spending an inordinate amount of time on the internet, they are communicating out there with all of the friends within their circle," he said, "If they are oversharing their beliefs about these very loaded political issues, those friends on the other end will notice that this person is increased in their intensity of their beliefs. That is to say extremism is observable."

"Two is overarming, overarming oneself with weaponry and bullet," he said, "If this is a lone wolf in Nevada, one could ask the question why does one need ten firearms and two handguns? Where were his family members, or those close to him, when he was hauling in all of this weaponry into the home? There was something going on there, perhaps a cue or a signal, that this person had crossed the line."

For many, this discussion comes at a very convenient, and eye-opening, time. Some say they left Monday's discussion with a better insight into identifying these tragedies and how they can help prevent them.

"You never know what happens," Rodgers said, "There's always a mass gathering of some sort and you never know if that could be that one event that could change your life dramatically."

"The idea that there are people that are really inspired by these terrorist groups, who are learning from those bad people," Malibari said, "That's what I want to know, why do kids, sometimes they're really young, why are they committing this bad stuff? What is a way to influence them, to know how can we actually take them and keep them away from this bad influence?"

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