Is­lamic State re­cruit­ing vi­o­lent crim­i­nals

> Ter­ror net­work of­fers ‘re­demp­tion’ to Euro­pean gang mem­bers

The Sun (Malaysia) - - NEWS WITHOUT BORDERS -

LON­DON: “Some­times peo­ple with the worst pasts cre­ate the best fu­tures,” reads the slo­gan, em­bla­zoned on an im­age of a masked fighter wield­ing a Kalash­nikov, walk­ing into blind­ing light.

The poster was shared on Face­book by Rayat al-Tawheed, a group of Bri­tish Is­lamic State fighters from Lon­don call­ing them­selves the “Ban­ner of God”.

Their tar­get is young men look­ing for re­demp­tion from crime, drugs or gangs who are will­ing to save their souls by wag­ing war for IS.

For all of its pro­fessed pi­ous­ness, new re­search shows that the ma­jor­ity of the ter­ror­ist group’s re­cruits have crim­i­nal his­to­ries.

A re­port by the In­ter­na­tional Cen­tre for the Study of Rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion (ICSR) shows that crim­i­nal and ter­ror­ist net­works across Europe are merg­ing to cre­ate a dan­ger­ous brand of ji­hadi for whom vi­o­lence is not just a holy pur­suit, but a way of life.

Pro­fes­sor Peter Neu­mann, di­rec­tor of the ICSR at King’s Col­lege Lon­don, said the new “crime-ter­ror nexus” was mak­ing rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion harder to spot for Euro­pean se­cu­rity ser­vices.

“A lot of an­a­lysts con­tinue say­ing ter­ror­ists are mid­dle or up­per-class, Osama bin Laden was the son of a mil­lion­aire and the 9/11 at­tack­ers were stu­dents for in­stance.

“But I don’t think that doesn’t re­flect the real­ity we have with IS – we need to re­think our strat­egy,” he said.

Neu­mann said that of the ji­hadis ex­am­ined for the study, two-thirds had not just a crim­i­nal his­tory but a vi­o­lent his­tory.

In Euro­pean coun­tries where the fig­ure is known, more than half of IS fighters were pre­vi­ously known to the po­lice.

“It gives crim­i­nals a moral jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for do­ing what they’ve been do­ing – only now they will go to heaven,” Neu­mann said.

The ter­ror group also aims to por­tray mem­ber­ship as a route to ac­tion, ad­ven­ture, power and the sense of broth­er­hood de­sired by fre­quently vul­ner­a­ble re­cruits search­ing for pur­pose and be­long­ing.

Alain Grig­nard, a se­nior mem­ber of Bel­gium’s counter-ter­ror agency, said IS can be seen as an ex­ten­sion of in­ner-city crime for many Euro­pean mem­bers.

“Young men with a his­tory of so­cial and crim­i­nal delin­quency are join­ing up with the IS as part of a sort of ‘su­per-gang’,” he told the Com­bat­ing Ter­ror­ism Cen­tre.

The link is be­ing re­in­forced by what has been dubbed the “gameifi­ca­tion of ji­had”, with IS styling its gory pro­pa­ganda videos like first-per­son-shooter con­sole games, com­plete with graph­ics, crosshair views and even chill­ing recre­ations of maze chal­lenges.

The method of re­cruit­ment is see­ing rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion speed up, with the process com­monly hap­pen­ing in weeks or months for the vast ma­jor­ity of IS mil­i­tants, com­pared to months of years for groups like Al-Qaeda and the Tal­iban.

Some con­tin­ued to drink and even take drugs up un­til their de­par­ture for IS.

“In many cases in the past, some­one might be­come a stu­dent ac­tivist and start sup­port­ing the ji­hadi ide­ol­ogy but then it would be a huge hur­dle to con­vince that per­son to vary out a vi­o­lent at­tack and kill some­body,” Neu­mann said.

“But with these crim­i­nals they are al­ready used to vi­o­lence, so for the jump from be­ing an ex­trem­ist to be­ing a vi­o­lent ex­trem­ist is much smaller.” – The In­de­pen­dent

An anti-IS fighter climbs out of a hole on the wall of a house dur­ing a fire­fight in the Libyan city of Sirte on Mon­day.

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