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Christchurch terrorist unlikely a ‘lone actor’, say former CSIS analysts

Christchurch terrorist unlikely a ‘lone actor’, say former CSIS analysts
Canada
OTTAWA—While only one man is believed to have been directly responsible for the brutal killing of 49 Muslim men and women in Christchurch, New Zealand, it’s likely a mistake to call him a “lone actor.”

Two former intelligence analysts said the concept of “lone actor” terrorists overlooks the online and in-person relationships that lead to radicalization and violence.

A car with shattered windows is parked close to the mosque after a gunman filmed himself firing at worshippers inside Christchurch.  (FLYNN FOLEY / AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

“Radicalization is social. You don’t come to these conclusions by yourself,” said Stephanie Carvin, an assistant professor at the Norman Patterson School of International Affairs and former CSIS analyst.

But the nature of those networks and connections — especially in the horizonless online world — still make it extremely difficult for intelligence and law enforcement agencies to detect or disrupt the kind of attack that shocked New Zealand and the world Thursday night.

“The sheer number of places that extremist content can proliferate is certainly a challenge, because we can’t (monitor) all of them,” said Jessica Davis, the president of Insight Threat Intelligence and a former senior analyst at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

“It’s a huge space to try to essentially generate leads from.”

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