Stephen B. Morton / AP

Report: Right-wing attackers pose bigger danger than ‘jihadists’ in US

Data on homegrown US extremists reveal that since 9/11, right-wing attacks have dwarfed those by radical Muslims

As the nation reels from last week’s mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, which left nine churchgoers dead, data show that since 9/11, there have been more deadly attacks in the U.S. carried out by right-wing assailants than by “jihadists.” What’s more, right-wing attacks have killed almost twice as many Americans.

According to a count of “lethal terrorist incidents” by homegrown extremists tallied by the New America Foundation (NAF), a New York–based nonprofit, the Charleston incident brought the number of right-wing attacks since 9/11 to 19, resulting in the deaths of 48 Americans. By contrast, “jihadists” — a term often used to describe radical Muslims — carried out seven attacks, resulting in 26 deaths.

Homegrown attacks, 2001–15


Total extremists


Individuals charged with ‘jihadist terrorism’




Victims killed by ‘jihadists’


Victims killed by right-wing extremists

Source: New America Foundation

The Charleston shooting, allegedly at the hands of Dylann Roof, 21, a purported white supremacist, was the latest in a series of deadly right-wing attacks in the U.S, according to NAF data.

Other incidents listed include attacks on a Sikh temple, a Jewish center, multiple Christian churches and the U.S. Holocaust Museum.

According to manifestoes or other messages left behind by the right-wing killers, the attacks were less about government policies and more about people who didn't share the attackers’ race, beliefs or lifestyle.

By contrast, incidents listed by NAF as “deadly jihadist attacks” include cases in which the assailant disagreed with U.S. government policies and actions, particularly in the Middle East. In fact, many of the assailants involved in the attacks have ties to the Middle East or Islam.

Included in the list is the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, in which brothers Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev killed four people out of anger over U.S. foreign policy and its perceived effects on Muslim communities.

Another attack cited is the 2002 shooting by Egyptian national Hesham Mohamed Hadayet of two Israelis at an El Al ticket counter at Los Angeles International Airport. Like the Tsarnaevs, Hadayet was not affiliated with any group but espoused anti-Israeli views and was opposed to U.S. policies in the Middle East.

Although Hadayet’s and the Tsarnaevs’ attacks are more in line with most Americans’ idea of terrorism, when asked whether right-wing extremists posed more of a threat than Muslim extremists, experts said the statistics speak for themselves.

“Look at the statistics. They are clear,” said Ibrahim Hooper, the national communications director for the Council on American Islamic Relations. “We called the Charleston shooting an act of terrorism ... Why wouldn’t you call the murder of nine people by someone trying to spark a race war an act of domestic terrorism?”

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