Predicting Suicide Attacks: Integrating Spatial, Temporal and Social Features of Terrorist Attacks Targets

Walter Perry, Claude Berrebi, Ryan Andrew Brown, John Hollywood, Amber Jaycocks, Parisa Roshan, Thomas Sullivan, Lisa Miyashiro

Research output: Book/ReportBook


The threat of suicide bombings in the United States and elsewhere prompted the Department of Homeland Security to commission the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) to develop a method for predicting the determinants of suicide bombing attacks. As a test case, NRL chose to study suicide bombings in four Israeli cities: Jerusalem, Haifa, Tel Aviv, and Netanya. They focused on three terrorist groups: Hamas, Al- Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. NRL designed a two-part study aimed at discovering terrorist group target preferences in suicide terrorism. The first part focused on examining spatial preference patterns: how the different terrorist groups develop target preferences and how these preference patterns can be transferred. Part 2 of the study focused on the sociocultural, socioeconomic, demographic, and political aspects of the suicide bomber attacks. The rationale is that looking at purely spatial attributes ignores the broader social context in which the attack occurred and that proper analysis of this social context can provide additional clues about the risk of future attacks. This monograph documents the results of incorporating these sociocultural, demographic, and political features in the analysis. This work should be considered an exploratory pilot study, designed simply to examine whether sociocultural features of the environment can add explanatory power to models and data sets that focus more on geospatial features. RAND was asked to explore the ability of sociocultural, political, economic, and demographic variables to add value to the prediction of the timing and locations of suicide attacks in Israel. We did this in two ways. First, we conducted a quantitative analysis using sociocultural, economic, and political variables to model areas at increased risk, then examined the value this added to NRL's geospatial predictive techniques.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherRand Corporation
Number of pages112
ISBN (Electronic)9780833078032
ISBN (Print) 9780833078001
StatePublished - 2013


  • Terrorism
  • Suicide Attacks
  • Predictions
  • Spatial
  • Temporal
  • Social
  • Targets


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