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The influence of leadership on the strategies and tactics of Islamic State and its predecessors


Journal of Policing, Intelligence and Counter TerrorismJournal abstract
Using data from the Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism's Global Terrorism Database, this paper analyses terrorist incidents perpetrated by the Islamic State and its antecedent groups under three different modes of leadership. We investigated whether changes in leadership are followed by changes in the targeting strategies and attacking styles of the group. We compared the frequency and the lethality of attacks, fatalities per day and the rates of suicide attacks, and investigated the differences in target selection and attack modalities using cross tabulation with chi-square analysis. The results indicate that the group followed different trajectories under the three different leadership styles examined in terms of target selection and the tactics employed to carry out the attacks. The analysis also shows that in the case of the Islamic State and its predecessors, the decapitation of terrorist leaders did not reduce the frequency of attacks, and fatalities per day. Further research is necessary to test to what extent changes in the strategies and tactics of terrorist organisations are caused by changes in leadership.

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