Cory Newton served as a Machinegunner in the United States Marine Corps from 1996-2000 and earned a B.S. in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics form Eastern Oregon University in 2012.  Cory authored Constitutional Capitalism and Common Defense in 2014 and can be found on Twitter @corynewton78 or on the web at  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.

Title:  Assessing Al Suri’s Individual Terrorism Jihadist Against Lone Wolves

Date Originally Written:  December 11, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  February 19, 2018.

Summary:  Terrorism is a tactic and often results in dead or wounded civilians.  Both individual terrorism jihadists and lone wolves use this tactic.  Despite this tactic producing similar results by whomever uses it, there is a distinct difference between individual terrorism jihadists and lone wolves.  Until governments understand and accept this difference, data related to attacks that use terrorism tactics will be skewed.

Text:  The Global Islamic Resistance Call was published by Abu Mus’ab al-Suri in January 2005[1].  The military theory of the Resistance Call is based on applying two forms of jihad.  The first form is individual terrorism jihad and secret operational activity of small units totally separated from each other.  The second form is participation in jihad at the open fronts wherever the necessary preconditions exist.  The individual terrorism jihadist differs from an open front jihadist in that the individual jihadist is unable to make it to the open front.  The individual terrorism jihadist also differs from the small cell jihadist in that their actions are truly independent.  Individual terrorism jihad was specifically designed to maximize feelings of helplessness of the targeted population by unleashing the innovation, initiative, and creativity inherent in a decentralized structure.

Individual terrorism jihad enables anyone, anywhere, at any time to wage jihad using terrorism without formally being affiliated with a terrorist organization.  All the individual terrorism jihadist must do is be properly motivated to take action in the name of jihad, identify a weakness or vulnerability, and apply force to exploit it.  Although the attacker does not have any direct ties to a terrorist organization, the attacker has rationally chosen to wage jihad using terrorism in a manner which they expect the attack to produce more benefits than costs.

There is a clear distinction between participation in what Al-Suri identified as individual terrorism jihad and lone wolf violent extremists who use terrorist tactics in the name of their cause.

Suppose a person who is inspired by, but not directly affiliated with, any one of the 917 hate groups in the United States identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)[2] carries out a lone wolf terrorist attack.  Despite the violent extremists’ non affiliation with an SPLC-identified hate group, the attack will likely be investigated as an act of terror.

On the other hand, suppose a marginalized person is seduced by an outside of the mainstream Islamist organization.  The person lacks affiliation to a terrorist organization but possess “a resolute, personal decision to perform the individual duty of jihad[1]” which motivates them to conduct an active shooting, knife attack, or vehicular ramming assault in which they verbalize their intentions with an Allahu Akbar war cry.  Despite the attacker’s non affiliation with a terrorist organization, the attack will likely be investigated as an act of terror.

One difference between the two acts of terror described above is that the former is carried out by a lone wolf using terrorism to wage war on a local scale, while the latter is performed by an individual terrorism jihadist locally waging war on a global scale.  The lone wolf who carries out a terrorist attack does not belong to a decentralized military theory of global Islamist resistance, as the individual terrorism jihadist does.  Individual terrorism jihad is similar to an independent franchise.  A lone wolf attack is independent, but usually does not occur within the context of a global resistance movement.

The individual terrorism jihadist and the lone wolf are two different threats.  As terroristic violence that specifically originates from the concept of individual terrorism jihad differs from terroristic violence that originates from the lone wolf, consideration should be given to classifying each differently in order to measure the frequency and severity of individual terrorism jihadist attacks.  If the frequency and severity of terrorist attacks by lone wolves is measured separately, terrorism data will be more accurate.  Both types of terrorist attacks will often have identical consequences.  The carnage wrought by an individual terrorism jihadist may very well be indistinguishable from the carnage wrought by a lone wolf white nationalist or lone wolf ecological extremist.  One is the result of global jihad attacking locally.  The other is a localized attack seeking national media attention.

As individual terrorism jihad and lone wolf attacks continue to increase, it is important properly identify and properly categorize each.  Theodore Kaczynski is the best example of a lone wolf who waged war using terrorism.  The threat posed by a person in that category is significantly different from an individual jihadist locally attacking a variety of soft targets using rifles, blades, explosives, or vehicles in the context of a global resistance movement.

Both individual terrorism jihad attacks and lone wolf attacks will continue to increase and evolve.  In order to combat these attacks in the future it is best if government officials understand whether the terrorist actions are part of global resistance movement or based on a personal or localized motivation.  In the case of individual terrorism jihad, these attacks will continue until the cost far exceeds the benefits.  The U.S. is very effective at determining the amount of force necessary to destroy enemy personnel and equipment.  Unfortunately, the U.S. still has a long way to go in determining the fine line between the amount of force necessary to destroy the enemies’ will to fight, and the amount of force that will galvanize the enemies’ will to resist.


[1] Lia, Brynjar (2008) Columbia University Press, Architect of Global Jihad, The Global Islamic Resistance Call (Key Excerpts), Military Theory of The Global Islamic Resistance Call, Page 371

[2] Southern Poverty Law Center Hate Map. (n.d.). Retrieved December 13, 2017, from