In the broader context of homegrown jihadist terrorism in the West, most interpretations of the 2013 Boston Marathon attack generally conform to the concept of “jihad of individual terrorism”. This concept effectively blurs the boundary between a network agent and a stand-alone “lone wolf”. The choice between the two often boils down to whether or not one accepts that acting in the name of a universalist extremist ideology suffices for otherwise dispersed and unconnected self-generating cells to qualify as parts of a larger network. While conforming to some general patterns of homegrown jihadist attacks in the United States, the Boston Marathon attack stands out for two less typical, and mutually contradictory, characteristics. For a pure “lone wolve” jihadist act, the Boston bombings were a rarely successful mass-casualty attack. This either makes it a major outlier, or suggests some external connections, training or support. However, the bombers' purported links to the North Caucasus militant underground as the suspected foreign source of such support are most atypical for U.S.-based jihadist terrorists, even if such links have some precedence among jihadist cells in Europe.
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