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The Local Geography of Transnational Terrorism

Author(s): Josiah F. Marineau, Henry Pascoe, Alex Braithwaite, Michael G. Findley, Joseph K. Young

Download: local-transnational-terror



On September 21, 2013, Al Shabab operatives attacked the Westgate shopping center in Nairobi, Kenya, killing over 65 individuals and injuring more than 200 others. Al Shabab targeted Kenya because the Kenyan government supported the ght against Islamist insurgents in Somalia. But they did not just choose any random location within Kenya. Instead, they chose a specic location in Nairobi that conferred a number of strategic advantages. Shopping centers in Nairobi, including the Westgate center, had previously been considered secure locations. Considerable numbers of consumers, including many westerners, frequent shopping centers like Westgate. Indeed, such malls re ect the heartbeat of an economically-vibrant, populous capital city. For all these reasons, the Westgate shopping center represented an attractive target for a terror attack.

The kinds of locations targeted by notable terrorist attacks|what Arce and Sandler (2010) refer to as \terrorist spectaculars”| rarely surprise us, even if their outcomes do shock. Recent attacks in Brussels (May 2014), Paris (November 2015), and Dhaka (July 2016), as well as terror attacks against foreign nationals in Kabul, Afghanistan (January 2018), share much in common with the traits observed in the Nairobi attack|they targeted densely populated urban centers, areas of signicant economic activity, and iconic sites. Yet, most transnational terrorist attacks are not on the scale of the spectacular. Relatively little is known systematically about the location of the bulk of transnational terrorist attacks. Attacks occur in all regions and a majority of countries globally; however intuition tells us that not all locations within each country are equally likely to experience attacks. Accordingly, our exploratory study seeks to identify which types of locations are more attractive than others.