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Jihadism in Norway: a Typology of Militant Networks in a Peripheral European Country


Authors: Lia, Brynjar & Nesser, Peter

Date of Publication: 2016

Publication: Perspectives on Terrorism, Vol. 10, Issue 6, 121-134.

Purpose of the study

Key Questions Addressed

What characterizes jihadi networks in Norway?

The article introduces a typology of militant networks that captures the variations of militant Islamist activism beyond the immediate attack cells, and which describes manifestations of jihadism in regions where attacks occur rarely.




Looks at the literature and different cases to understand the problem. 




In order to better understand this shift, this brief article[1] explores Jihadism in Norway through the lenses of an analytical framework – more precisely a typology – in which militant Islamist networks are classified according to criteria such as organizational structure, activity, degree of overtness and outreach, and recruitment base. The five archetypes constituting the typology are as follows: (i) “militant exiles”, (ii) “diasporic support networks”, (iii) “militant visitors”, (iv) “(al-Qaida) attack cells” and (v) “homegrown extremists”.

Key Findings 

Jihadism in Norway has witnessed a huge shift from consisting primarily of foreign ethnically homogenous networks with a low capacity for mobilization, to the current situation where a loose country-wide network of domestic extremists have demonstrated a considerable capacity for foreign fighter recruitment over the past four years.

Young Islamist extremists of today interact directly with Norwegian society and recruit successfully from different segments of mainstream society, defying the limits of class, ethnicity and geographical distance. Norwegian language jihadi propaganda is no longer such a rarity, helped by factors such as the social media revolution. This shift towards homegrown jihadism is partly the product of the global war on terrorism and the securitization of Islam and identity issues. More important, however, is the youth rebellion which is part and parcel of the jihadism success story. The generational shift from middle-aged Islamist politicians to youth activists involved in aid work and foreign fighter participation have created new avenues for youth participation in a way militant Islamist activism in the past did not.

Key Recommendations 

Although the future of jihadism in Norway also depends on the ability to strike a fine balance between coercive and soft means in countering radicalization and foreign fighter participation, it is important to bear in mind that events and dynamics beyond Norway’s border will also greatly influence the scope of the threat. 

European jihadi networks are extremely transnational, with attacks being planned in one country and occurring in another. 

Furthermore, the geopolitics of the Middle East and the actions of Norway’s allies will also influence the terrorism threat level in Norway.

Reviewer Notes

Keywords: Jihadism; Norway; IS; periphery 

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