Islamist Terrorism in Europe

May 2018 9781849049504 384pp


Europe is still facing an increase in terrorist plotting. This has led to growing security concerns over the fallout of the Syrian conflict, and the sizeable contingents of battle-hardened European foreign fighters, who are seeking to return home.

This book provides a comprehensive account of the rise of jihadist militancy in Europe and offers a detailed background for understanding the current and future threat. Based on a wide range of new primary sources, it traces the phenomenon back to the late 1980s, and the formation of jihadist support networks in Europe in the early 1990s. Combining analytical rigour with empirical richness, Petter Nesser offers a comprehensive account of patterns of terrorist cell formation and plots between 1995 and 2017.

In contrast to existing research which has emphasised social explanations, failed immigration and homegrown radicalism, this book highlights the transnational aspects. It shows how jihadi terrorism in Europe is intrinsically linked to and reflects the ideological agendas of armed organisations in conflict zones, and how entrepreneurial jihad-veterans facilitate such trans-nationalisation of militancy.


Watch Petter Nesser introducing his book on C-Span here:

‘Nesser’s detailed analysis of the threat we face could hardly be more timely. Its main focus is on the individuals involved, their backgrounds, motivations and modus operandi.’ — The Independent

‘Petter Nesser’s unflashy book analyses jihadi activity in Europe from the 1994 attempt by Algerian hijackers to crash an Air France jet into Paris to the massacre at Charlie Hebdo’s offices and the kosher deli hostage crisis one year ago.’ — The Times

‘A forensic look at 20 years of terrorist attacks. … This is not a book to read if you want to sleep easy.’ — The Sunday Times

‘Meticulously documented . . .thorough, well-analysed.’ — Times Literary Supplement

‘A comprehensive and detailed account . . . Nesser’s Islamist Terrorism in Europe deserves to be noticed for assembling such an amount of detailed information on several executed and foiled attacks that would otherwise have been located in scattered publications not always easily accessible to a wider public.’ — European Review of International Studies

‘Petter Nesser is one of the longest standing and most objective observers of this phenomenon. His book is full of detailed information that will make it a work of reference for many years to come. More than any other book on the subject, it shows the continuities and discontinuities, allowing readers and analysts to make sense of what has changed and what has remained the same. An absolute must read for anyone studying jihadist terrorism in Europe.’ — Peter Neumann, Director, International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR), King’s College London

‘Petter Nesser is to be commended for a clear and well-researched explanation of jihadist terrorism in Europe that is impressive in historical range and depth of coverage. His study is essential for understanding a subject that is of paramount importance to the public and policy makers as well as scholars.’ — Martha Crenshaw, Senior Fellow, Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC), Stanford University

‘Several of the very best studies on terrorism have emerged from scholars around the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment (FFI). This is another of them. Petter Nesser’s history of Islamist terrorism in Europe explains more than two decades of terrorist plotting like no other single-author study — a must read for counter-terrorist professionals and academics, but also for all concerned citizens who want to make sense of “senseless violence.”’ — Alex P. Schmid, Editor-in-Chief of Perspectives on Terrorism and former Officer-in-Charge of the Terrorism Prevention Branch of the United Nations


Petter Nesser is a senior research fellow with the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI). Trained in Social Science, Middle Eastern Studies and Arabic, Nesser has conducted extensive research on jihadism in Europe for more than a decade, while focusing on motivational drivers, recruitment and radicalisation processes.

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