Right-Wing Terrorism and Violence in Western Europe, 1990 - 2019

RTV Trend Report 2020 (pdf)

Jacob Aasland Ravndal, Sofia Lygren, Anders Ravik Jupskås and Tore Bjørgo

Right-wing terrorism and violence were on the agenda in many Western countries in 2019. The annual report from the Munich Security Conference, the world’s largest gathering of international security policy makers and analysts, presented ‘right-wing extremism’ as a key issue alongside ‘space security’, ‘climate security’ and ‘the technology race’. In many countries, the security services pointed to the growing threat of right-wing extremism. The main reason behind the increasing attention was an apparent emerging global trend of lone-actor terrorists carrying out, or trying to carry out, mass-casualty attacks, inspired by the terrorist attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand, on 15 March 2019. Several similar attacks and plots took place across the globe in the subsequent months, including in the US (Poway and El Paso), Germany (Halle), Norway (Bærum) and the UK (Luton), though none were nearly as deadly as the one in Christchurch. Rather than being part of an organized transnational terrorist network, these lone actors seem to have been connected only by reputation, through online platforms in which perpetrators of mass killings are celebrated as heroes and role models, most notably 4chan/8chan and Telegram.

While this new trend is indeed worrying, not only because the perpetrators intend to kill as many as possible, but also because it is difficult to assess the intentions and capabilities of internet-based subcultures, this report shows that the year 2019 in Western Europe was neither very violent in terms of fatal attacks, nor particularly deadly in terms of fatalities. Moreover, the trend report shows that most (severe) right-wing violence is not related to internet-inspired lone actors committing or trying to commit mass murder using bombs or firearms. In fact, lone actors are behind only a minority of (severe) violent events, and the most common ‘weapons’ used are not firearms, but fists, feet and blunt instruments.

In this report, which is the second of its kind, we present an overview of right-wing terrorism and severe violence in Western Europe in 2019, including the number of violent events, the perpetrator types, the targeted groups and the weapons used. Looking at fatal events only, we also discuss important long-term and short-term trends in (severe forms of) right-wing violence since 1990. The report also includes snapshot case studies of three countries with relatively high levels of violence (i.e. Germany, Greece and Spain), as well as more detail on two selected topics: online-inspired terrorism and attacks against politicians.

Published May 27, 2020 9:56 AM - Last modified Aug. 29, 2021 11:45 PM