Anatomy of a Terrorist Incident ICT2A07L

This module focuses on understanding terrorist attacks. A five stage model for terrorist attacks is proposed in this module, including the following elements:

  1. Pre-Incident Phase
  2. Initiation Phase
  3. Climax Phase
  4. Post-Incident Phase

A fifth stage, Negotiation Phase, fits in between stages 2 and 3 in the cases of kidnappings or other hostage takings.

Pre-Incident Phase of Terrorism

During the pre-incident phase, planning for the attack occurs. The target is selected, information is collected and analyzed to produce intelligence. Money, papers (fake identification, etc.), and other equipment necessary for the attack (rented vans or purchased weapons) is obtained. (Stratfor, 2012)

Initiation Phase of Terrorism

During the initiation phase, material is brought together and everyone is prepared for the attack. In other models (e.g. the Stratfor Terrorist Attack Cycle, shown below) parts of this phase and the Pre-Incident Phase may be covered under “Planning.”

Stratfor Attack Cycle


The attack may be a separate phase (as above) but in the ICT course it is considered part of the Initiation phase.

Negotiation Phase of Terrorism

In cases where hostages are taken, this is where the negotiation phase occurs. Goals may be media attention and increased exposure, to generate sympathy for the hijackers, or to achieve aims such as release of prisoners. (da Silva, 2016)

Stockholm syndrome is also a risk with hostage takings, where the hostages begin to identify with their captors and may even resist rescue. (Westcott, 2013)

Climax Phase of Terrorism

During the climax phase of terrorism the attack has concluded and the terrorists are in the person of leaving the area. This is when they may be most violent in an effort to secure their escape.

Post-Incident Phase of Terrorism

In the post-incident phase, equipment is returned and the lessons learned are discussed. This is the time where new tactics are discussed and “after action reports” are written.

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