Why insurgents attack and kill civilians has been explored in a new book by University of Essex academic

  • Date

    Tue 12 Apr 22

portrait of Dr Brian Phillips

Insurgent Terrorism: Intergroup Relationships and the Killing of Civilians – has been praised as a vital work by experts and was released in the UK in April.

Dr Brian Phillips, Reader from the Department of Government, shines a light on relationships between armed insurgents and civilians, inter-group rivalries, and conflicts across the globe.

Using statistical analysis and case evidence from around the world, he speculates that insurgent groups rivalling one another may partake in a heinous game of one-upmanship, to see who can claim the most civilian lives.

Dr Phillips said: “The main argument is that the relationships insurgents have - with the state, with other insurgents, and with the public - are crucial for understanding their behaviour, including civilian targeting. We look at some important categories which have not been studied in depth before: violence against journalists, ‘the general public’ and schools.”

The renowned expert has spoken to influential audiences around the globe and has received research funding from the U.S Department of Homeland Security, the Global Challenges Research Fund, and the Mexican Government.

The book was co-written with two other respected experts in terrorism, Professor Victor Asal of the State University of New York Albany and Professor R Karl Rethemeyer of the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Reviewing the book, Dr Todd Sandler, of the University of Texas, Dallas said: "Insurgent Terrorism is a thought-provoking, provocative investigation by three leading scholars on why insurgent groups may target civilians in pursuit of political goals.

“This is an important question of increasing relevance for sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa.

“The book supports its theses with data-driven, careful empirical analysis based on insurgent attacks, goals, and inter-organization linkages.”

Ursula Daxecker, Associate Professor, University of Amsterdam, said of the book: "Insurgent Terrorism is an important book that presents detailed cross-national data and analyses of civilian targeting by insurgent groups in civil conflict.

“The authors persuasively argue that the embeddedness of insurgent groups - that is, their relations with the state, the public, and each other - explains variation in civilian victimization. This relational account produces novel and intriguing findings, such as that both alignment and rivalry with other groups lead to more frequent civilian targeting.

“Marked by empirical richness, the book advances knowledge on the behaviour of insurgent groups, civilian victimization, and civil conflict."

The book was published by Oxford University Press on 4 April 2022.