New Book Offers Insights into Family Terror Networks, Their Implications and How to Combat this Growing Feature of Global Terrorism

A new book authored by Western Illinois University Homeland Security Professor Dean C. Alexander addresses the aspects of family terror networks, their implications and countering this increasingly prominent facet of international terrorism.

“Family Terror Networks,” the first monograph of its kind, discusses the characteristics of family terror networks and chronicles case studies involving them across ideologies. It proposed a model for predicting family terror networks and its utility in combating this type of political violence.

Additionally, an analysis of the 118 case studies of family connected terrorism involving 138 examples of kin relationships (e.g., brothers, husbands/wives and fathers/sons) is shared.

“Particularly noteworthy, the 138 family ties discussed in the cases involved fairly equal amounts of husbands/wives (43/138 or 31 percent) and brothers (36/138 or 26 percent). As such, these case studies suggest that family affiliated terrorism occurs most readily in husbands/wives and brothers,” said Alexander.

Overwhelmingly, jihadism was the ideology connected to the 118 instances of families affiliated with terrorism that were reviewed. This type of extremism was found in 87 percent of the cases with other precepts occurring comparatively fairly rarely (13 percent). Among the non-jihadists associated with kin terrorism, they were affiliated with mostly right-wing extremism (e.g., sovereign citizens, militia and white supremacy). The study also describes law enforcement responses to terrorism, which concurrently undermine kin connected terrorism.

Alexander, who is also the director of the WIU School of LEJA’s Homeland Security Research Program (HSRP), said the book’s subject material ties in with his research and his instruction at Western. 

“WIU’s HSRP addresses domestic and international terror threats and their implications. The threats posed by family terror networks to the global community are significant and long lasting, necessitating expansive and far-reaching responses at home and abroad,” he noted.

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