Christian Oswald - Research School on Peace and Conflict

Christian Oswald

Trinity College Dublin

Christian Oswald

Explaining variation in terrorist violence in civil war settings

Terrorism occurs in around 75 per cent of civil wars. Previous studies have explained variation in the number of terrorist attacks by rebel group, region, or country per year or over longer periods of time. They identify group and regime characteristics that make terrorism more likely. However, these measures neglect dynamics and processes in civil wars which contribute to the likelihood of terrorism. They cannot explain the timing and location of terrorist attacks and therefore cannot explain why terrorism occurs in some cases but not in others under similar conditions. I argue that provocative events explain the adoption of terrorism in civil wars and its timing. Such events, or precipitants, only lead to terrorism if preconditions for it are present. This study will contribute to the literature on terrorism and civil war by investigating causal mechanisms at the event-level and exploiting variation across time and space. This has implications for the study of political violence, practicioners in the field and the policy community.