White supremacists and rightwing extremists are behind the majority of 2020’s domestic terror attacks and plots — but attacks committed by the far-left are on the rise, according to new data from a centrist think tank.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies, which tracks domestic terror attacks, released a report Thursday showing that far-right extremists were behind 41 attacks and plots with political motivations this year, while far-left extremists were behind just 12.
In total, white supremacists “and other like-minded extremists” were responsible for 67 percent of terrorist plots and attacks against the US between January and August 31, 2020, the report states.
“They used vehicles, explosives, and firearms as their predominant weapons and targeted demonstrators and other individuals because of their racial, ethnic, religious, or political makeup — such as African Americans, immigrants, Muslims, and Jews,” a briefing on the report reads.
The majority of attacks (50 percent) targeted demonstrators, such as Black Lives Matter protesters, while 36 percent targeted the government, military and police, or private individuals.
However, the report also found that “anarchist, anti-facist, and other like-minded attacks and plots” are on the rise in 2020 compared to previous years.
In 2019, 12 percent of domestic terror attacks were attributed to the far-left, compared to 20 percent in 2020, according to the report.
“These types of extremists used explosives and incendiaries in the majority of attacks, followed by firearms. They also targeted police, military, and government personnel and facilities,” the brief states.
Fifty-eight percent of far-left attacks targeted the government, military and police, while 42 percent were against demonstrators — including crowds supporting the police and President Trump, the report found.
Of particular concern, according to the think tank, is that far-left and far-right violence is often “deeply intertwined” — which compounds security concerns.
“Each side’s efforts to increase its own security and acquire weapons inadvertently threaten the other side,” the report states.
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“Since it may be difficult for individuals to distinguish between offensive and defensive arms, even efforts by one side to protect itself may motivate others to arm, creating a spiral of actions that leads to violence.”
Overall, the counter-terrorism experts behind the report expect domestic terrorism to be a persistent problem into “the foreseeable future, including 2021 and beyond.”
The report warned there could be a rise in these incidents following the outcome of the upcoming presidential election and “rising political polarization, growing economic challenges, the persistence of COVID-19, and growing concerns about immigration” will contribute to that rise.
The experts project digital platforms to remain as a “major battlefield” by both the far-left and the far-right.
“Extremists from all sides will likely utilize digital platforms to fundraise, communicate, issue propaganda, conduct doxing campaigns (releasing an individual’s personally identifiable information), intimidate targets, and coordinate activity,” the brief states.
Further, they expect these groups will shift from disorganized and decentralized environments to more established structures, which will provide leaders greater control over how violence is orchestrated and a more streamlined system of financing it.
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