Researchers promise to stop terrorists

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Researchers at the University of Maryland's Institute for Advanced Computer Studies have developed a software-based system designed to fight terrorism..

The Soma Terror Organization Portal (Stop) allows analysts to query rules on terrorist behaviour, forecast potential action based on these rules and, most importantly, network with other analysts examining the same subjects.

Soma, or Stochastic Opponent Modelling Agents, is described as a formal logical-statistical reasoning framework.

The system uses data about the past behaviour of terrorist groups to learn about the probability of an organisation, community or person taking certain actions in different situations.

Soma has generated tens of thousands of rules about the likely behaviour of around 30 terrorist groups in a collaboration between computer scientists and political scientists.

The groups include major terrorist organisations such as Hezbollah, Hamas and Hezb-I-Islami.

"Soma is a joint computer and social science achievement that will facilitate learning about and forecasting terrorist group behaviour based on rigorous mathematical and computational models," said V. S. Subrahmanian, a computer science professor who heads the Stop project.

"But even the best science needs to work hand-in-hand with social scientists and users.

"In addition to accurate behavioural models and forecasting algorithms, Stop acts as a virtual roundtable for terrorism experts to gather round and form a rich community that transcends artificial boundaries."

Stop is funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and currently has users from four defence agencies.

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