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White Americans biggest terror threat in US: Study

This undated photo shows Dylann Roof, a white supremacist accused of shooting nine people dead at a black church in the South Carolina. (AFP photo)

White, right-wing Americans present a far greater terror threat to the United States than individuals linked to the al-Qaeda or ISIL extremist groups, according to a new study.

Most of the “terror” attacks carried out on US soil since the September 11, 2001 attacks have been committed by white supremacist and radical anti-government groups, according to the New America Foundation, a Washington-based think tank.

Nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists and antigovernment fanatics since 9/11 than by al-Qaeda-inspired individuals, according to the latest count by the New America Foundation.

 The study found that 48 people have been killed by extremists who are not Muslim, including the recent mass killing in Charleston, South Carolina, compared with 26 by self-proclaimed Muslims. 

The massacre of nine African-Americans in a Charleston church last week by an avowed white supremacist was the latest in a string of white terrorist attacks in the US.

Lethal attacks by people espousing racial hatred and hostility to government has taken the lives of police officers, members of racial or religious minorities and random civilians.

John Horgan, who studies terrorism at the University of Massachusetts, said the mismatch between public perceptions and actual cases had become steadily more obvious to scholars.

“There’s an acceptance now of the idea that the threat from jihadi [takfiri] terrorism in the United States has been overblown,” Dr. Horgan said. “And there’s a belief that the threat of right-wing, antigovernment violence has been underestimated.”

However, the criteria used by New America Foundation and most other research groups exclude attacks by white Americans with no apparent ideological motive, which have cost more lives than those clearly tied to ideology.

Most mass shootings, like Sandy Hook school massacre or the Colorado movie theater shooting that took place in 2012 weren't included in the study.

Attacks by non-Muslim white individuals, whether ideological or not, generally receive little coverage in the news media. Muslim advocates complain that when the perpetrator of an attack is not Muslim, news media commentators quickly focus on the question of mental illness.

“With non-Muslims, the media bends over backward to identify some psychological traits that may have pushed them over the edge,” said Abdul Cader Asmal, a retired physician and a longtime spokesman for Muslims in Boston. “Whereas if it’s a Muslim, the assumption is that they must have done it because of their religion.”

A white supremacist by the name of Wade Michael Page entered a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in 2012 and opened fire, killing six people and seriously wounding three others. Page, who died at the scene, was a member of a neo-Nazi group called the Northern Hammerskins.


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