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Peter Lehr from the University of St Andrews introduces the Terrorism Studies course

Terrorism Studies: Terrorist Modus Operandi

 This module can be studied on a standalone basis or as part of the Certificate/Advanced Certificate in Terrorism Studies

This module explores how the ideologies of various terrorist groups can have an impact on group structure, tactics, strategies and target selection. It examines types of terrorist tactics, looking into the role of ideology and the impact of state response on the evolution of terrorist strategies, before considering the possible future trends in terrorist tactics.

Special attention is paid to:
  • The relationship between a terrorist group's ideological make-up and the type of targets and tactics it might use
  • Drawing distinctions between “traditional” terrorism and "new" international terrorism including two case studies on the IRA and Al Qaeda / Global Salafi Jihad
  • Different types of tactics that terrorists employ and the importance of terrorist target selection, technology, recruitment, training and financing
  • The impact of state response on terrorist tactics
  • Best practices for effective inter-agency collaboration in countering terrorism
  • Terrorist group exploitation of the media, including satellite TV networks such as Al-Jazeera
  • Possible future terrorist tactics

Download the full Certificate/Advanced Certificate in Terrorism Studies prospectus here

Terrorist organisations exist in many forms that range from highly centralised and disciplined outfits to loosely-connected networks with little association with other members other than a common cause. Hierarchical or centralised structures and network or decentralised structures are two types of terrorist group structures. Traditionally, terrorist organisations have had a hierarchical structure with a centralised leadership. 

Hierarchical Structure - A hierarchical structure consists of a centralised leadership determining the tactics and strategies of the group

Network Structure - Terrorist networks are decentralised and consist of groups and cells acting separately although they are part of the same movement and inspired by the same ideology. 

Decentralised Terrorist Networks

More lately the phenomenon of decentralised terrorist networks has emerged. Although it has now become a prominent feature of the new international terrorism, this is not the first time the term has been coined or indeed that the network form of structure has existed. The threat of lone operators (‘lone wolves’) committing terrorist acts has also grown with noted examples such as the Oklahoma bombing in the USA in 1993 and the Breivik massacre in Norway in 2011.

The term terrorist network has been used to describe the interactions that developed from 1968 between Palestinian groups (such as the PLO and the PFLP) and European terrorists to whom the former offered training facilities. It has also been referred to the cooperation that existed between terrorist groups with a similar ideological outlook in the context of the Cold War.

The network form and the concept of ‘leaderless resistance’ have been applied to animal rights extremists and environmental terrorists (such as the Earth Liberation Front).

The module is designed to be studied over four weeks:

Week 1 - Gain an overview of the “traditional” terrorist structure and the “new” terrorist network by studying case studies of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) campaign during ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland from 1970, and Al Qaeda and the Global Salafi Jihad mainly from 9/11 onwards.

Week 2 - Understand the impact of ideology on terrorist tactics by studying case studies of the IRA and Al Qaeda and the Global Salafi Jihad.

Week 3 - Learn about the various tactics that terrorists have used and understand the impact of state responses on terrorist tactics.

Week 4 - Appreciate the debate on the relationship between the media and terrorism, and be able to consider the possible future trends in terrorist tactics. 



Study modules individually or as part of the Certificate/Advanced Certificate in Terrorism Studies.

Download the full Certificate/Advanced Certificate in Terrorism Studies prospectus here

Visit Fees page.

Dr Peter Lehr discusses the Modus Operandi module

Questions about the Terrorism Studies course?

T: +44 (0)20 3377 3210
T: +1 (646) 957 8929
E: info@terrorismstudies.com

Available Start Dates

15 Feb 2016

15 Jun 2016

18 Oct 2016

Reference & ID Codes for Applications

  • UK MoD ELC Scheme:
  • CAGE/NCAGE Code:
  • NAICS:
    611430 & 611310
  • CCR Registered:
    DUNS 232915728

See Fees & Funding page

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