There is a spectrum  of terror, ranging from ‘lone wolf’ style assailants (such as the shooting by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau on October 22, 2014) to full-on professional terrorists that have extensive training and explicit ties to groups like al-Qaeda or Boko Haram. The ‘lone wolf’ is an assailant characterized by having little or no training and most likely has mental problems, drug dependence, a criminal history or some combination thereof. A lone wolf might have become radical  by direct exposure to Islamist ideology or through the internet and  simply wants to latch on to a cause in order to cause mayhem.

The Kouachi brothers, who perpetrated  the attack on the Charlie Hebdo headquarters in Paris on January 7, fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. They received small-arms training by jihadist militants and both had ties to radical Islamists, yet were not formal members of a terrorist organization. This is what is known as grassroots terrorism.

The scope of threat varies greatly with grassroots jihadists, depending on the extent of their training and radicalization processes, personal capability and sheer circumstance. While not all grassroots jihadists will be able to successfully pull off their terrorist plots, the ability of extremists and jihadists in radicalizing followers means that there is a broad threat. The best solution would be to cut the chain somewhere in order to prevent radical jihadists from extending their ideologies and beliefs to potential lone wolves or grassroots jihadists.