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Domestic Terrorism

More right-wing terrorism in the U.S. – but fewer deaths


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Extremist right-wing terrorist activity is on the rise in the United States. Their victims are Black people, Jews, immigrants, the LGBT community and other minorities. They use guns, knives, bombs and cars to attack synagogues, abortion clinics and courthouses. That's according to new data from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), an independent Washington think tank specializing in security policy.

Domestic terrorism refers to acts of violence, in which the perpetrator intentionally attacks people living in their own country in order to achieve political goals and have a widespread psychological impact. In 2020 alone, CSIS counted at least 110 such acts of violence - more than at any time since the survey began a quarter century ago. Right-wing extremists were allegedly responsible for 73 of these attacks and foiled plans.

The CSIS data is not perfect. Some of the main sources used are media reports. Therefore, it is not impossible that the massive increase in 2020 is at least partly due to much denser media coverage, which also documented less serious incidents such as the violent intimidation of left-wing demonstrators. Nevertheless, the data should still serve as a warning sign.

According to the report, right-wing extremists have killed at least 91 people in at least 267 acts of terrorist violence since 2015. Left-wing extremists killed 19 people in the same period. While the number of attacks and plots is growing, the death toll from domestic terrorism is paradoxically at its lowest level since 2013, with only five people killed last year, compared to 35 in 2019 and as many as 66 in 2016.

Terrorists with a military background

This right-wing terrorism often emanates from military-trained individuals. In 2020, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) notified the Department of Defense that it had opened 143 criminal investigations involving current or former members of the U.S. Armed Forces. 68 cases involved domestic terrorism. Following the storming of the Capitol by Trump supporters on Jan. 6th of this year, at least 31 veterans, one reservist and one National Guard member have been charged with conspiracy and other crimes so far.

According to the FBI, 37 percent of lone terrorist offenders in the United States between 1972 and 2015 were in the military. That number plummeted at the turn of the millennium. CSIS now warns that this trend is in danger of reversing: active-duty soldiers and reservists were responsible for 6.4 percent of all domestic terrorist attacks and plots in 2020, according to their data. In January of this year, that figure was as high as 17.6 percent.

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  1. Jones, Seth G.; Catrina Doxsee, Grace Hwang & Jared Thompson: The Military, Police, and the Rise of Terrorism in the United States, from: (12.4.2021).
  2. Center for Strategic and International Studies (Hg.): Methodology and Codebook, from: (no date).
  3. Jones et al. 2021.


Editorial Team


Geboren 1994 in den USA. Seit 2020 Redakteur bei KATAPULT. Zuvor Studium der Musik und Linguistik/Germanistik an der University of Alabama. Teamleiter von @katapultmaps.

Geboren 1992, seit 2020 Redakteurin bei KATAPULT. Zuvor Studium der English-Studies, Linguistik und Kommunikationswissenschaft in Köln und Amsterdam. Zusammen mit Jeremy Connor hauptverantwortlich für @katapultmaps.

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