Report Shows Number of Muslim-American Terrorists in 2013 Lower than Feared

Sixteen Muslim-Americans were charged with violent terrorism offenses in 2013, including Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his deceased brother, Tamerlan, according to a new report by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security affiliated with Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and RTI International.

The 14 other alleged offenders in 2013 were linked to a total of 12 activities or potential plots, all of them thwarted. The total number of Muslim-American terrorism perpetrators and suspects since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks is 225, averaging fewer than 19 per year.  

“Despite concerns that the Boston Marathon bombing or the civil war in Syria might lead to an upsurge of violence in the United States, the number of plots linked to Muslim-Americans in 2013 remained lower than feared,” said the author of the report, Charles Kurzman, a professor of sociology at UNC-Chapel Hill. “Foreign terrorist organizations continued to have difficulty recruiting Muslim-American communities.”   

David Schanzer, director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, said: “Even though two people caused a grave amount of harm in Boston last year, this data confirms that very few Muslim-Americans are radicalizing to violence. The challenge for our national security and law enforcement officials is to find ways to stop these few individuals before they harm our communities. This challenge is similar in many ways to preventing the mass shootings we have seen in recent years.”  

The report also notes that:
    •    Six of the 16 suspects in 2013 plotted attacks in the United States, the fewest since 2008. The others were charged with joining or attempting to join terrorist organizations abroad.

    •    Terrorism by Muslim-Americans has resulted in 37 fatalities in the United States since 2001. (By comparison, during 2013 alone, all other mass killings led to 133 fatalities in the United States.)  

    •    Of the violent terrorist plots that were disrupted, seven of 12 individuals were discovered through the suspects’ own statements. About 30 percent of the perpetrators since 9/11 have been brought to the attention of law enforcement by members of the Muslim-American community (54 of 188 individuals where the initial tip was made public).

    •    Seven Muslim Americans were indicted for nonviolent support for terrorism in 2013, the second lowest annual total since 2001.   

The Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security is a collaborative effort between Duke, UNC, Chapel Hill and RTI International to enhance the understanding of terrorism and the means to combat it through education, research and the development of partnerships between universities, industry and government. Founded in 2005, TCTHS provides a forum for the exchange of views, information, and expertise between a broad cross section of the Triangle community — students, faculty, researchers, government officials, first responders and interested members of the public.

The fifth annual report on this subject is available online: Previous reports: