Skip to main content

Sometimes they come back: responding to American foreign fighter returnees and other Elusive threats


Journal abstract

Much has been made of the threat of battle hardened jihadis from Islamist insurgencies, especially Syria. But do Americans who return home after gaining experience fighting abroad pose a greater risk than homegrown jihadi militants with no such experience? Using updated data covering 1990–2017, this study shows that the presence of a returnee decreases the likelihood that an executed plot will cause mass casualties. Plots carried out with American returnees from Islamist insurgencies abroad also decrease the likelihood that a plot will come to fruition. The presence of a known foreign fighter increases the likelihood of detection and disruption by law enforcement officials. These data also show successful attacks by any but lone-actors are becoming increasingly rare. However, attacks planned and executed by close-family members are the exception to the general rule.

You might also like: