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Infographic: Map reveals 'hot spots' for terrorist attacks

Infographic: Map reveals 'hot spots' for terrorist attacks

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Terrorism in rural communities are on the rise due to extreme environmentalists and other radicals.

Terrorism is on the rise... in Arizona?

While few would dispute that a place like New York City would be a prime target for terrorists, the assumption that living in a major urban hub would put one at greater risk isn't entirely accurate. In an analysis of all terrorist attacks from 1970 to 2008, researchers at a Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Center and the University of Maryland found that about a third occurred in just five metropolitan U.S. counties. However, the researchers also noted that smaller, more rural counties such as Maricopa County, Ariz. -- which includes Phoenix -- have emerged recently as a hotbed for terrorists.

In fact, they found that 65 of the nation's 3,143 counties would be considered terrorism "hot spots." The researchers defined a "hot spot" as a county experiencing a greater than the average number of terrorist attacks, that is, more than six attacks across the entire time period (1970 to 2008).  The data was also used to created an interactive map (above) showing where civilians might be at a higher risk.

But you're probably scratching your head and wondering "Why the heck would anyone want to terrorize Maricopa County?" Staticians attribute the rise to domestic terrorism, groups like extreme environmentalists and other radicals that are often overlooked with people mostly concerned about threats from abroad.

"The main attacks driving Maricopa into recent hot spot status are the actions of radical environmental groups, especially the Coalition to Save the Preserves. said the report's lead author Gary LaFree. "So, despite the clustering of attacks in certain regions, it is also clear that hot spots are dispersed throughout the country and include places as geographically diverse as counties in Arizona, Massachusetts, Nebraska and Texas."

The analysis included a breakdown of whether certain counties were more prone to particular types of terrorist attack, such as ones carried out by right-wing groups, left wing groups, racist groups, or attacks motivated by a single issue.

Here's a brief summary of notable trends that emerged:

  • The top five cities where a third of all attacks occured were Manhattan, New York (343 attacks), Los Angeles County (156 attacks), Miami-Dade County (103 attacks), San Francisco County, (99 attacks), Washington, D.C. (79 attacks).
  • Only a few counties experienced multiple types of terrorist attacks. In most hot spots attacks were motivated by a single ideological type. For example, Lubbock County, Texas, only experienced extreme right-wing terrorism while the Bronx, New York, only experienced extreme left-wing terrorism.
  • The 1970s were dominated by extreme left-wing terrorist attacks. Far left-wing terrorism in the U.S. is almost entirely limited to the 1970s with few events in the 1980s and virtually no events after that.
  • Ethno-national/separatist terrorism was concentrated in the 1970s and 1980s, religiously motivated attacks occurred predominantly in the 1980s, extreme right-wing terrorism was concentrated in the 1990s and single issue attacks were dispersed across the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.

More infographics and interactive maps:

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Tuan Nguyen

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Tuan C. Nguyen is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. He has written for the U.S. News and World Report, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, AOL, Yahoo! News and LiveScience. Formerly, he was reporter and producer for the technology section of ABCNews.com. He holds degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure