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Killing Range: Explaining Lethality Variance within a Terrorist Organization


This paper presents an analysis of the Provisional Irish Republican Army's (PIRA) brigade level behavior during the Northern Ireland Conflict (1970-1998) and identifies the organizational factors that impact a brigade's lethality as measured via terrorist attacks. Key independent variables include levels of technical expertise, cadre age, counter-terrorism policies experienced, brigade size, and IED components and delivery methods. We find that technical expertise within a brigade allows for careful IED usage, which significantly minimizes civilian casualties (a specific strategic goal of PIRA) while increasing the ability to kill more high value targets with IEDs. Lethal counter-terrorism events also significantly affect a brigade's likelihood of killing both civilians and high-value targets but in different ways. Killing PIRA members significantly decreases IED fatalities but also significantly decreases the possibility of zero civilian IED-related deaths in a given year. Killing innocent Catholics in a Brigade's county significantly increases total and civilian IED fatalities. Together the results suggest the necessity to analyze dynamic situational variables that impact terrorist group behavior at the sub-unit level.

Publication Information

Full Citation:

Gill, Paul, John Horgan, Victor Asal, and R. Karl Rethemeyer. 2013. "Killing Range: Explaining Lethality Variance within a Terrorist Organization​." Journal of Conflict Resolution (November). http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0022002713508927

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