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The Roots of Lone Wolf Terrorism

Why the West's Homegrown Jihadists Are All Sunni

FBI investigators arrive at the crime scene of a mass shooting at the Pulse gay night club in Orlando, Florida, June 13, 2016. Jim Young / Reuters

One of the few commonalities that lone wolf Islamist terrorists share—whether in San Bernardino or now Philadelphia—is their Sunni Muslim background. They are never Shia.

Of course, there is Hezbollah, the Shia terrorist group in Lebanon, which has a long list of bombings and kidnappings attributed to it. In 1992, it attacked the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires; in 1994 it bombed an Israeli community center in the same city; and in 1996, it blew up the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. But the difference is that these were coordinated attacks. There are also other Shia militias in the Middle East, such as the Mahdi Army in Iraq, and Amal in Lebanon. But none of these Shia groups are associated with inspiring individuals to commit violence on their behalf. Almost without exception, Shia militant groups pursue a direct geopolitical goal, such as pushing the United States out of Baghdad or the

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