Counter Terror Expo 2013 – Terrorist Target Selection: The case of Anders Behring Breivik

Protecting the public
Protecting the public

In our second feature article from Counter Terror Expo 2013; Cato Hemmingby, Research Fellow at the Norwegian Police University College and speaker at the event; looks at the way terrorists select their targets, focusing on the case of solo terrorist Anders Behring Breivik.

Cato writes: “Why do terrorists target the way they do? This is a complex question, because the road from the principal decision to turn to terrorism to the actual act itself may be very long.”

“As such, the number of variables inflicting on the target selection process can be very high. Classic targeting literature focuses on how ideology, strategy and tactics lead towards a target in a funnel-like way.”

“However, each of these main boxes consists of many variables that must be taken into account and the main challenge is often how they interact. Furthermore, it is always a question of what kind of compromises the terrorists have to along the way and as such.”

“Also recognizing that different factors may vary quite distinctively from one case to another, research on the process of terrorist target selection must include proper qualitative studies, going deep into cases that are selected.”

“On 22.July 2011 Anders Behring Breivik conducted one of the worst solo-terrorist attacks ever seen. The two-folded attack was initiated with a massive bomb explosion in the Government District in downtown Oslo, killing 8 people.”

“This was followed by an extremely brutal shooting spree at the Labour party youth camp at the island of Utøya, resulting in the deaths of 69 people – including many victims under the age of 18.”

“This case will serve as an example of how a solo terrorist thinks and acts with regard to targeting.  As such, the presentation will illuminate how even this ruthless terrorist operated under a number of constraints, and illustrate how plans had to be changed several times due to different circumstances.”

“Knowledge about the terrorist target selection process will be particularly valueable to anyone working on threat assessments and preventive security, i.e. object security.”

“It will also be of interest for others with an interest for radicalization, terrorism in a general perspective and solo terrorism specifically.”

Cato Hemmingby is a speaker at Counter Terror Expo 2013 within the Protecting Crowded Places Conference, Day One, Wednesday 24 April 2013, 16.00-16.30 on “Emergency Response to Crowded Places Incidents.”

For more information please visit

Counter Terror Expo 2013 Website