Right-wing terrorism

Right-wing terrorism is terrorism motivated by a variety of different right-wing ideologies, most prominently neo-fascism.[1] Modern radical right-wing terrorism first appeared in Western Europe in the 1970s and it first appeared in Eastern Europe following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.[2]

Right-wing terrorists aim to overthrow governments and replace them with nationalist or fascist regimes.[1] Although they often take inspiration from Italian fascism and Nazi Germany, right-wing terrorist groups frequently lack a rigid ideology.[3]


Groups associated with right-wing terrorism include white power skinhead gangs, far-right hooligans, and sympathizers.[4] The "intellectual guides" of right-wing terrorist movements espouse the view that that the state must "rid itself of the foreign elements that undermine it from within" so that the state can "provide for its rightful, natural citizens."[4]


Armin Falk and colleagues suggests that Right-Wing Extremist Crime (REC), which includes anti-foreigner and racist motivations, is associated with unemployment rates (261). Consequently, as unemployment rates increase, REC also increases. This correlation can be found in several countries including Germany, United States, and the United Kingdom. Additionally, this phenomenon is not necessarily associated with individuals, rather unemployment impacts society's humanitarian values of tolerance and altruism. Meaning, as unemployment rates increase, humanitarian values of tolerance and altruism decrease according to Falk. This cause of right-wing terrorism can be associated with a functionalist perspective on employment. Ferrante defines a functionalist approach as "how the parts of society contribute in expected and unexpected way of maintain an existing social order" (26). Work and employment serve several functions for society (University of Minnesota 12.2). The University of Minnesota Library suggests that employment provides workers with an income and also contributes to their self-identity and fulfillment (12.2). When employment is low, this leads to a perceived threat towards self-identity and fulfillment which can then lead to a larger possibility for right-wing terrorism to occur.

A second cause of right-wing terrorism as Thomas Greven suggests, is populism, or more accurately, right-wing populism. Jan-Werner Muller describes populism as a form of identity politics that is inherently anti-establishment and anti-pluralist (3). More simply put, populism supports the advancement of 'the average citizen', and it does not support the agendas of the privileged elite. Furthermore, Greven defines right-wing populist as those who support ethnocentrism, and oppose immigration (3). Right-wing populist policies that have recently been covered in the media include the Executive Order 13769, which is the travel ban from Muslim-majority countries to the United States, and the Immigration policy of Donald Trump which proposes that a wall should be built between the United States and Mexico in order to prevent illegal immigrants from coming to the United States. Greven suggests that immigration policy not only threatens economic competition, but also threatens traditional values and identities (5). Due to the ethnocentric motivations behind these policies, they are classified as right-wing populism. Because right-wing populism creates a climate of 'us versus them', terrorism is more likely to occur according to Greven. This cause of right-wing terrorism can be associated with a conflict perspective. Ferrante explains the conflict perspective as a focus on conflict regarding scarce resources and the strategies advantaged groups used to perpetuate social agreement arrangements from which they benefit (30). When people feel as though their traditional values are being threatened by the social elite who contribute to the rise in immigration, conflict ensues, and terrorism follows.


South Africa

In 1993 Chris Hani, the General Secretary of the South African Communist Party was murdered by Polish-born far-right anti-Communist Janusz Waluś who had been lent a firearm by far-right pro-Apartheid MP Clive Derby-Lewis. The Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging, a neo-Nazi paramilitary organisation, has often been described as terrorist. In 2010 South African authorities foiled a plot by far-right terrorists to commit attacks as revenge for the murder of Eugène Terre'Blanche, seizing explosives and firearms.[5]



During Brazil's military government, some right-wing military engaged in violent repression. The Riocentro 1981 May Day Attack was a bombing attempt that happened on the night of April 30, 1981. Severe casualties were suffered by the terrorists. While an NGO held a fundraiser fighting for democracy and free elections and celebrating the upcoming holiday, a bomb exploded at Riocentro parking area killing army seargent Guilherme Pereira do Rosário and severely wounding captain Wilson Dias Machado, who survived the bomb explosion. The bomb exploded inside a car where both were preparing it. Rosário died instantaneously. They were the only casualties.

The Para-SAR example[6][7] was revealed by Brazilian Air Force captain Sérgio Ribeiro Miranda de Carvalho in 1968 before it reached the execution phase as it was made public to the press after a meeting with his superior Brigadier General João Paulo Burnier and chief of Para-SAR unity. Burnier discussed a secret plan to bomb a dense traffic area of Rio de Janeiro known as "Gasômetro" during commute and later claim that Communists were the perpetrators. He expected to be able to run a witch-hunt against the growing political military opposition. Burnier also mentioned his intentions on making the Para-SAR, a Brazilian Air Force rescue unity, a tool for eliminating some military government political oppositors throwing them to the sea at a wide distance of the coast. On both of these events, no military involved on these actions or planning was arrested, charged or faced retaliation from the Brazilian military government. The only exception is captain Sérgio de Carvalho which had to leave the air force for facing his superiors retaliation after whistleblowing brigadier Burnier's plan.


Colombian paramilitary groups were responsible for most of the human rights violations in the latter half of the ongoing Colombian conflict.[8] The first paramilitary terrorist[9] groups were organized by U.S. military advisers who were sent during the Cold War to combat the spread of leftist politicians, activists and guerrillas.[10][11]

According to several international human rights and governmental organizations, right-wing paramilitary groups were responsible for at least 70 to 80% of political murders in Colombia per year.[8][12]

This groups were financed and protected by elite landowners, drug traffickers, members of the security forces, right wing politicians and multinational corporations.[13][14][15][16]

Paramilitary violence and terrorism there was principally targeted towards peasants, unionists, indigenous people, human rights workers, teachers and left-wing political activists or their supporters.[17][18][19][20][21][22][23]


The Contras were a right wing militant group, backed by the United States, that fought against the Sandinista National Liberation Front in Nicaragua. They were responsible for numerous human rights violations and carried out over 1300 terrorist attacks.[24][25]

United States

The term "white terrorism" is used by scholars to label terrorism committed against African Americans during the Reconstruction era.[26][27]

According to George Michael, "right-wing terrorism and violence has a long history in America".[28] Right-wing violent incidents began to outnumber Marxist incidents in the United States during the 1980s and 1990s.[29]:29 Michael observes the waning of left-wing terrorism accompanying the rise of right-wing terrorism, with a noticeable "convergence" of the goals of militant Islam with those of the extreme right. Islamic studies scholar Youssef M. Choueiri classified Islamic fundamentalist movements involving revivalism, reformism, and radicalism as within the scope of "right-wing politics".[30]:9

During the 1980s, more than 75 right-wing extremists were prosecuted in the United States for acts of terrorism, carrying out six attacks.[31] In 1983, Gordon Kahl, a Posse Comitatus activist, killed two federal marshals and he was later killed by police. Also that year, the white nationalist revolutionary group The Order (also known as the Brüder Schweigen or the Silent Brotherhood) robbed banks and armored cars, as well as a sex shop,[32] bombed a theater and a synagogue and murdered radio talk show host Alan Berg.[33][34]

The April 19, 1995 attack on the Murrah federal building in Oklahoma by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols killed 168 people and it was the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in the history of the United States.[35] McVeigh stated that it was committed in retaliation for the government's actions at Ruby Ridge and Waco.[36]

Eric Rudolph executed a series of terrorist attacks between 1996 and 1998. He carried out the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing—which claimed two lives and injured 111—aiming to cancel the games, claiming they promoted global socialism and to embarrass the U.S. government.[37] Rudolph confessed to bombing an abortion clinic in Sandy Springs, an Atlanta suburb, on January 16, 1997, the Otherside Lounge, an Atlanta lesbian bar, on February 21, 1997, injuring five and an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama on January 29, 1998, killing Birmingham police officer and part-time clinic security guard Robert Sanderson and critically injuring nurse Emily Lyons.

Number of ideologically motivated murders by year and ideology. Murders motivated by right wing ideology in red.

As of December 2018, the New America Foundation placed the number killed in terrorist attacks in the United States since 9/11 as follows: 104 killed in jihadist terrorist attacks, 86 killed in far-right attacks, 8 killed in black separatist/nationalist/supremacist attacks, and 8 killed in ideological misogyny/"incel" ideology attacks.[38] The politically conservative Daily Caller News Foundation using data from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), found 92% of all "ideologically motivated homicide incidents" committed in the United States from 2007 to 2016 were motivated by right-wing extremism or white supremacism.[39] According to the Government Accountability Office of the United States, 73% of violent extremist incidents that resulted in deaths since September 12, 2001 were caused by right-wing extremist groups.[40][41]

New America's tally shows that since September 11, 2001, incidents of right-wing extremism have caused 86 deaths. Incidents causing death were:[38]

Year Occurrence Location Victims Wounded* Victims Killed*
2018 Jeffersontown Kroger shooting Jeffersontown, Kentucky 0 2
2018 Pittsburgh synagogue shooting Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 7 11
2018 Murder of Blaze Bernstein Orange County, California 0 1
2018 Murder of MeShon Cooper-Williams Kansas City, Missouri 0 1
2017 University of Maryland stabbing College Park, Maryland 0 1
2017 Car-ramming attack into counter-protestors at the white nationalist Unite the Right rally Charlottesville, Virginia 19 1
2017 Portland train attack Portland, Oregon 1 2
2017 Stabbing of Timothy Caughman New York City 0 1
2015 Shooting at a showing of the film Trainwreck Lafayette, Louisiana 9 2
2015 Planned Parenthood shooting Colorado Springs, Colorado 9 3
2015 Shooting attack on worshippers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church Charleston, South Carolina 1 9
2014 Attack on Pennsylvania State Police barracks Blooming Grove, Pennsylvania 1 1
2014 Ambush attack on Las Vegas police officers Las Vegas, Nevada 3
2014 Overland Park Jewish Community Center shooting Overland Park, Kansas 3
2013 Los Angeles International Airport shooting attack on TSA officer Los Angeles, California 6 1
2013 Double murder committed by Jeremy Lee Moody and Christine Moody Jonesville, South Carolina 0 2
2012 Ambush attack against St. John the Baptist Parish police St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana 2 2
2012 Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting Oak Creek, Wisconsin 4 6
2011 Tri-state killing spree by white supremacists David Pedersen and Holly Grigsby Multiple 4
2011 FEAR group attacks Georgia 3
2011 Murder of James Craig Anderson Jackson, Mississippi 0 1
2010 Murder committed by Aryan Brotherhood members Mississippi 0 1
2010 Shooting at bookstore cafe perpetrated by Ross William Muehlberger Wichita Falls, Texas 4 1
2010 Murder of Todd Getgen[42][43] Carlisle, Pennsylvania 0 1
2010 Suicide attack by airplane Austin, Texas 13 1
2009 Murder of sex offender by white supremacists North Palm Springs, California 0 1
2009 Murder committed by Charles Francis Gaskins Carmichael, California 0 1
2009 United States Holocaust Memorial Museum shooting Washington, D.C. 1 1
2009 Assassination of George Tiller Wichita, Kansas 1 1
2009 Murders of Raul and Brisenia Flores Brockton, Massachusetts 1 2
2009 Shooting of Pittsburgh police officers Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 2 3
2008 Woodburn bank bombing Woodburn, Oregon 2 2
2008 Knoxville Unitarian Universalist church shooting Knoxville, Tennessee 8 2
2007 Murder of homeless man by Aryan Soldiers 0 1
2006 Murder committed by John Ditullio 1 1
2004 Bank robbery Tulsa, Oklahoma 0 1
2003 Torture, abduction and murder Salinas, California 0 1
2001 Post-September 11 shootings Multiple 1 2

* Count of "victims killed" and "victims wounded" excludes attackers.

A report in The Washington Post, published on November 25, 2018, showed violent right-wing-related incidents up, and left-wing-related incidents down. Total domestic terrorism incidents was down to 41 in 2001, from a high of 468 in 1970, but then went up to 65 in 2017. Of those 65 events in 2017, 36 were right-wing-related (with 11 fatalities), 10 were left-wing-related (with 6 fatalities), 7 were related to Islamist extremism (with 16 fatalities), and 12, including the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, were categorized as "Other/Unknown" (with 62 fatalities, including 58 from the Las Vegas incident). The report found that 2018 was a particularly deadly year, with 11 people dying in the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, 2 others in an incident in Kentucky, and two more in a shooting in Tallasshee. All three incidents were right-wing related.[44]

The Post reported that the upsurge in right-wing violence began during the Barack Obama administration and picked up steam under the presidency of Donald Trump, whose remarks after the Unite the Right rally in Charlotteville, Virginia in 2017 that there were "some very fine people on both sides" is widely seen as giving confidence to the right that the administration looked favorably on their goals, providing them with "tacit support". A former FBI assistant director for counterintelligence, is quoted as saying that "[political leaders] from the White House down, used to serve as a check on conduct and speech that was abhorrent to most people. I see that eroding. ... The current political rhetoric is at least enabling, and certainly not discouraging, violence."[44]

According to analysis by the newspaper of data from the Global Terrorism Database, 92 of 263 domestic terrorism events – 35% – that occurred from 2010 to 2017 were right-wing related, while 38 (14%) were Islamist extremist-related, and 34 (13%) were left-wing related. Not only that, but a criminologist from John Jay College stated that right-wing attacks were statistically more likely to result in fatalities.[44]



Neo-Nazis were suspected to have perpetrated the 1992 Copenhagen bombing, in which the office of a left-wing socialist party was attacked, killing one of its members.[45]


In the town of Toulon, a far-right extremist group called SOS-France existed. On 18 August 1986, four members were driving a car carrying explosives, apparently in an attempt to bomb the offices of SOS Racisme. However it exploded while they were still in it, killing all four of them.[46]

Neo-Nazi members of the French and European Nationalist Party were responsible for a pair of anti-immigrant terror bombings in 1988. Sonacotra hostels in Cagnes-sur-Mer and Cannes were bombed, killing Romanian immigrant George Iordachescu and injuring 16 people, mostly Tunisians. In an attempt to frame Jewish extremists for the Cagnes-sur-Mer bombing, the terrorists left leaflets bearing Stars of David and the name Masada at the scene, with the message "To destroy Israel, Islam has chosen the sword. For this choice, Islam will perish."[47]

On 28 May 2008, members of the neo-Nazi Nomad 88 group fired with machine guns at people from their car in Saint-Michel-sur-Orge.[48][49]

In 2015, in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo shooting, six mosques and a restaurant were attacked in acts deemed as right-wing terrorism by authorities.[50] The acts included grenade throwing, shooting, and use of an improvised explosive device.


In 1980, a right-wing terrorist attack in Munich, Germany killed the attacker and 12 other people, injuring 215. Fears of an ongoing campaign of major right-wing terrorist attacks did not materialize.[1]

In addition to several bank robberies, the German National Socialist Underground was responsible for the Bosphorus serial murders (2000–2006), the 2004 Cologne bombing and the murder of policewoman Michéle Kiesewetter in 2007. In November 2011, two members of the National Socialist Underground committed suicide after a bank robbery and a third member was arrested some days later.

Right-wing extremist offenses in Germany rose sharply in 2015 and 2016.[51] Figures from the German government tallied 316 violent xenophobic offences in 2014 and 612 such offenses in 2015.[51]

In August 2014, a group of four Germans founded a Munich-based far-right terrorist group, the Oldschool Society [de]. The group, which held racist, antisemitic, and anti-Muslim views, eventually attracted 30 members.[52] They stockpiled weapons and explosives and plotted to attack a refugee shelter in Saxony,[52] but the group's leaders were arrested in May 2015 before carrying out the attack.[53] In March 2017 four of the group's leaders were sentenced to prison terms.[52] The perpetrator of the 2016 Munich shooting also had far-right views.


In the 1970s and 1980s, Italy endured the Years of Lead, a period characterized by frequent terrorist attacks: between 1969 and 1982, the nation suffered 8,800 terrorist attacks, in which a total of 351 people were killed and 768 were injured.[54] The terrorist attacks have been both ascribed both to the far-left and the far-right, yet many of the terrorist attacks remain without a clear culprit; many have claimed that responsibility for the attacks could be ascribed to rogue members of the Italian secret service. Some of the terrorist attacks ascribed to a particular political group may have actually been the work of these rogue agents: this has been claimed, among many others, by Francesco Cossiga,[55] who was the President of the Italian Republic during the years of lead, and by Giulio Andreotti,[56] who, during the same period of time, held the office of Prime Minister more than once.

The Years of Lead are considered to have begun with the Piazza Fontana bombing in Milan in December 1969,[54] perpetrated by Ordine Nuovo, a right-wing neofascist group.[57] Sixteen people were killed, and 90 injured, in the bombing.[57]

In July 1970, this same group carried out a bombing on a train traveling from Rome to Messina, killing six and wounding almost 100. The group also carried out the Piazza della Loggia bombing in 1974, killing eight antifascist activists.[57] Perhaps the most infamous right-wing terrorist attack in post-war Italy is the August 1980 Bologna bombing, in which neo-fascist Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari ("Armed Revolutionary Nuclei"), an Ordine Nuovo offshoot, killed 85 people and injured 200 at the Bologna railroad station.[57][58] Valerio Fioravanti, Francesca Mambro, and two others were convicted of mass murder in the attacks,[58] although both have always denied any connection with them.[59][60]

In December 2011, a gunman targeted Senegalese peddlers in Florence, killing two and injuring three others before killing himself.[61][62] The perpetrator was a sympathizer of CasaPound,[61][62] a neo-fascist party that Italian judges have recognized as not posing a threat to public or private safety.[63]


On July 22, 2011, Norwegian right-wing extremist with Nazi[64][65] and fascist[66] sympathies, Anders Behring Breivik, carried out the 2011 Norway attacks, the deadliest attack in Norway since World War II. First he bombed several government buildings in Oslo, killing eight people and injuring more than 200. After the bombings, he went to Utøya island in a fake police uniform and began firing on people attending a political youth camp for the Worker's Youth League (AUF), a left-wing political party, killing 69 and injuring more than 110.


Despite the country being nearly ethnically and religiously homogenous, Polish far-right targets, via propaganda or physical violence, religious and ethnic minorities such as Jews, Romani people, people with darker complexion or Middle Eastern appearance. In 1991, an anti-Romani pogrom broke out in Mława. During the UEFA Euro 2012, Polish hooligans targeted random Russian football supporters. There have been reports of hate crimes targeting the Muslim minority in Poland. Far-right and right-wing populist political parties and organizations fuel fear and hatred towards Islam and Muslims.[67] Hate crimes such as arson and physical violence have occurred in Poland (despite having a Muslim population of only 0.1%, that is 30,000 out of 38 million).[68][69] In 2016, police arrested a man who they say tried to burn down a mosque in Gdansk.[50] The man belonged to the neo-nazi group called Blood & Honour.


The Savior was a neo-Nazi militant nationalist organization which claimed credit for the August 2006 Moscow market bombing, which killed 13. Media reports indicate that the market, located near Cherkizovsky, was targeted due to its high volume of Central Asian and Caucasian clientele.[70][71] Four members of The Saviour were sentenced to life imprisonment, while four others received lesser prison terms.[72]

On 22 April 2017, A gunman 'with hatred for ethnic minorities' shot and killed two people in an attack in a Federal Security Service office in the Russian city of Khabarovsk. The gunman was also killed. The Russian Federal Security Service says the native 18-year-old perpetrator was a known member of a neo-nazi group.[73]


Both the 2009–10 Malmö shootings and the Trollhättan school attack were conducted by right-wing terrorists along with a refugee centre bombing in 2017. A notable serial killer motivated by far-right motives is John Ausonius.[74] Far-rightists were also responsible for attacking an anti-racist demonstration in Stockholm in December 2013.

United Kingdom

In April 1999, David Copeland, a neo-Nazi, planted a series of nail bombs over 13 days. His attacks, which were aimed at London's black, Bangladeshi and gay communities, resulted in three dead and more than 100 injured.[75] Copeland was a former member of two far right political groups, the British National Party (BNP) and the National Socialist Movement. Copeland told police, "My aim was political. It was to cause a racial war in this country. There'd be a backlash from the ethnic minorities, then all the white people will go out and vote BNP."[76]

In July 2007, Robert Cottage, a former BNP member, was convicted for possessing explosive chemicals in his home – described by police at the time of his arrest as the largest amount of chemical explosive of its type ever found in that country.[77] In June 2008, Martyn Gilleard, a British Nazi sympathizer, was jailed after police found nail bombs, bullets, swords, axes and knives in his flat.[78] Also in 2008, Nathan Worrell was found guilty of possession of material for terrorist purposes and racially aggravated harassment. He was described by anti-terror police as a "dangerous individual". The court heard that police found books and manuals containing "recipes" to make bombs and detonators using household items, such as weedkiller, at Worrell's flat.[79] In July 2009, Neil Lewington was planning on waging a terror campaign using weapons made from tennis balls and weedkiller against those he classified as "non British".[80]

In 2012, the British Home Affairs Committee warned of the threat of far right terrorism in the UK, claiming it had heard "persuasive evidence" about the potential danger and cited the growth of similar threats across Europe.[81]

Members of Combat 18 (C18), a neo-Nazi organisation based on the concept of "leaderless resistance", have been suspected in numerous deaths of immigrants, non-whites and other C18 members.[82] Between 1998 and 2000, dozens of members were arrested.[83][84] A group calling itself the Racial Volunteer Force split from C18 in 2002, retaining close links to its parent organization.[85] Some journalists believed that the White Wolves were a C18 splinter group, alleging that the group had been set up by Del O'Connor, the former second-in-command of C18 and member of Skrewdriver Security.[86] C18 attacks on immigrants continued through 2009.[87] Weapons, ammunition and explosives were seized by police in the UK and almost every country in which C18 was active.

In 2016, Jo Cox, the Member of Parliament (MP) for the Batley and Spen constituency was murdered by Thomas Mair, who was motivated by far-right political views and had connections to several far-right organisations in the UK, US, and South Africa.[88]

On 16 December 2016 Home Secretary Amber Rudd designated the far-right, neo-Nazi National Action group as a terrorist organisation which criminalises membership or support for the organisation.[89] On 12 June 2018, Jack Renshaw, 23, a former spokesperson for National Action, admitted in a guilty plea to buying a 48 cm (19 in) replica RomanGladius sword (often wrongly referred to in the media as a machete) to murder Rosie Cooper, the Member of Parliament (MP) for the West Lancashire constituency.[90]

In March 2018 Mark Rowley, the outgoing head of UK counter-terror policing, revealed that four far-right terror plots had been foiled since the Westminster attack in March 2017.[91]

British far-right activists supplied funds and weaponry to Loyalist terrorist groups in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.[92] Following the Good Friday Agreement some members of Loyalist groups orchestrated racist attacks in Northern Ireland,[93][94][95] including pipe bomb and gun attacks on the homes of immigrants.[96][97][98][99][100] As a result, Northern Ireland has a higher proportion of racist attacks than other parts of the UK,[95][101] and was branded the "race-hate capital of Europe".[102]



In August 2016 Phillip Galea was charged with several terrorist offences. Galea had conducted "surveillance" of "left-wing premises" and planned to carry out bombings. Explosive ingredients were found at his home. Galea had links with organisations such as Combat 18 and the United Patriots Front.[103] In 2017 the Sydney Morning Herald reported on the conviction of neo-Nazi Michael James Holt, 26 who had threatened to carry out a mass shooting attack and considered Westfield Tuggerah as a target. He had manufactured home-made guns, knuckle dusters and slingshots in his grandfather's garage. Raids on his mother's home and a hotel room discovered more weapons including several firearms, slingshots and knuckle dusters.[104]

See also