Washington, July 20 : Analysis of an extensive terrorism database housed at the University of Arkansas in the US has revealed patterns in activities of terrorists preparing for an attack, information that can be invaluable for law enforcement agencies seeking to prevent terrorist attacks.
The analysis was made by Brent L. Smith, director of the university's Terrorism Research Center, along with colleagues Jackson Cothren and Paxton Roberts, and, Kelly Damphousse of the University of Oklahoma.
While law enforcement agencies know a great deal about the behavior of traditional criminals, until now little information has been available about how terrorists prepare for attacks.
The researchers found that in general, terrorists "think globally but act locally."
While 44 percent of all terrorists lived within 30 miles of their targets, there was some variation by type of terrorists. International terrorists tended to live near the target while right-wing terrorists in the US lived in rural areas and chose targets in nearby cities.
Preparation for attacks included surveillance and other intelligence gathering, robberies and thefts to raise funds, weapons violations and bomb manufacturing.
Most such activities took place close to home and to the target, especially for "single issue terrorists," such as environmental and anti-abortion extremists.
One study of environmental and international terrorists found that about half of the environmental terrorists and nearly three-fifths of the international terrorists lived within 30 miles of their targets.
Similarly, more than half of the environmental and international terrorists prepared for the attacks within 30 miles of the target, with some important exceptions.
"Major crimes to procure funding for the group - like thefts, robberies and burglaries - however are intentionally committed many miles away to avoid drawing attention to the group's location and target choice," according to the researchers.
The timelines for preparations varied among groups. Some environmental extremists use "lone wolf" tactics, which involve uncoordinated acts of violence by individuals, typically leading to spontaneous attacks.
International terrorists tended to take longer than six months to prepare for an attack.
Their acts involved a larger number of people, and they engaged in three times as many preparatory activities as environmental terrorists.
The researchers suggested that knowledge of local patterns "may be used by agencies to more efficiently patrol known, high-risk target areas and gather intelligence on suspected actions within a specific distance from potential targets."
According to the researchers, "As we continue to deepen our understanding of the relationship among the location of the terrorists' home, terrorist preparation activities and the target, this growing knowledge should help officers prevent and respond to attacks."