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Splitting to survive: understanding terrorist group fragmentation

Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and PracticeJournal abstract

From Al-Qaeda to the IRA almost all terrorist organisations have experienced splits in some shape or form. This can spell the dawn of violent spoiler groups, but it may equally play a significant role in the overall politicisation of a group. This article aims to provide a greater understanding of these splits by assessing the issue from a political organisational perspective.

The author proposes that by addressing splits through the lens of organisational survival we may gain a greater insight into the process which takes place in the lead up to, and in the aftermath of organisational cleavage.

It is posited that the rationale behind schism can, at times, be the result of a desire from at least one side to maintain the survival of the organisation in a form they both respect and recognise. In order to achieve this it might require forming an independent, autonomous organisation, or alternatively promoting the exit of internal factional competitors.

Research limitations/implications
Within the article three organisational hypotheses are proposed. It is vital that in order to assess their validity that these are empirically tested by future researchers.

Practical implications
In order to be able to counter terrorist organisations one must first have an understanding of the external and internal events and processes. While much of our attention is understanding paid to the external violent activity of the groups we must also develop a significant understanding of the non-violent internal activities as well. This article provides a theoretical basis for understanding one of these process, organisational split.

By addressing splits from an organisational survival viewpoint it challenges the previously held assumption that splits should be analysed as part of the ‘end of terrorism.’