Rad­i­cal­iza­tion, not plots, de­fines Is­lamic State

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY CARLO MUNOZ AND GUY TAY­LOR

Mon­day’s Christ­mas mar­ket at­tack in Ber­lin was the lat­est in an in­creas­ingly low-tech ter­ror­ism cam­paign be­ing waged by the Is­lamic State and its sym­pa­thiz­ers who fa­vor butcher knives and trucks driven into crowds over sui­cide belts and booby­trapped cars — a tac­ti­cal shift that has con­founded Amer­i­can and Euro­pean coun­tert­er­ror­ism of­fi­cials.

While al Qaeda re­lied on sleeper cells in the U.S. and Europe to carry out its mis­sion, the Is­lamic State — the suc­ces­sor of al Qaeda in Iraq — has per­fected the art of self-rad­i­cal­iza­tion, ac­cord­ing to U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials.

In the past, al Qaeda sleeper cells had a

semi-iden­ti­fi­able “de­mo­graphic pro­file” and main­tained “def­i­nite link­ages” to the group’s chain of com­mand that in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers could ex­ploit, said Nick Ras­mussen, chief of the Na­tional Coun­tert­er­ror­ism Cen­ter.

The lack of such link­ages, es­pe­cially by “lone wolf” at­tack­ers who were in­spired by the Is­lamic State’s im­pres­sive on­line pro­pa­ganda oper­a­tion, has opened up “a size and scale of the [U.S.] pop­u­la­tion” sus­cep­ti­ble to rad­i­cal­iza­tion, Mr. Ras­mussen said dur­ing a panel dis­cus­sion in an in­tel­li­gence sym­po­sium in Septem­ber.

Al Qaeda’s fo­cus on high-pro­file, 9/11style at­tacks takes im­mense amounts of plan­ning, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, fi­nanc­ing and co­or­di­na­tion, and comes with a high risk of fail­ure that U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies have ex­ploited, said Michael Leiter, for­mer di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Coun­tert­er­ror­ism Cen­ter.

Is­lamic State plan­ners re­al­ized they did not need to hi­jack a plane or plant a truck bomb in Times Square to be ef­fec­tive. A heavy truck or easy ac­cess to semi-au­to­matic weapons “is all you need” to carry out an at­tack, Mr. Leiter said dur­ing the same in­tel­li­gence panel dis­cus­sion.

In Ger­many, au­thor­i­ties are hunt­ing for Anis Amri, a 24-year old Tu­nisian sus­pected of car­ry­ing out the hor­rific truck at­tack on a bustling Christ­mas mar­ket in the heart of Ber­lin.

Tu­nisian anti-ter­ror­ism in­ves­ti­ga­tors have ques­tioned the Amri fam­ily in Tu­nis, while Ger­man in­ves­ti­ga­tors con­tinue to scour the coun­try for any leads on his where­abouts, The As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported Wed­nes­day.

Mr. Amri, who was de­nied asy­lum in Ger­many in July, re­port­edly had been un­der gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance for sev­eral months over sug­gested ties to the Is­lamic State, ac­cord­ing to the AP.

His iden­tity card was found in the cab of the trac­tor-trailer truck that mowed down dozens of civil­ians in a crowded Christ­mas mar­ket in west Ber­lin on Mon­day.

The Is­lamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tack, which left 12 dead and more than 50 wounded.

Only a month be­fore the Ber­lin at­tack, Abdul Razak Ali Ar­tan, an Ohio State stu­dent, in­jured 11 peo­ple after driv­ing his car into a clus­ter of stu­dents and pro­ceeded to stab oth­ers be­fore cam­pus po­lice killed him.

Ar­tan re­port­edly was self-rad­i­cal­ized after hear­ing the teach­ings of An­war al-Awlaki, the U.S.-Ye­meni cleric who was the spir­i­tual leader of al Qaeda’s Ye­meni branch, al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula. The Is­lamic State claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tack and hailed Ar­tan as a “sol­dier.”

In July, a Tu­nisian na­tional was re­spon­si­ble for killing 86 peo­ple after driv­ing a cargo truck through crowds of Bastille Day cel­e­brants in the south­ern French re­sort city of Nice. The Is­lamic State claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for that as­sault as well.

As Is­lamic State bat­tle­field losses con­tinue to mount against the U.S.-led coali­tion in Iraq and Syria, “low-re­source, high-im­pact” at­tacks in the U.S. and Europe will likely be­come the norm, coun­tert­er­ror­ism an­a­lysts say.

“We are ob­vi­ously see­ing ter­ror­ist net­works who are un­der pres­sure. … Look for low-cost, low-re­source, high­im­pact events to try to con­tinue to at­tract peo­ple to their nar­ra­tive,” State Depart­ment spokesman John Kirby said Tues­day.

“We’re see­ing this all around the world,” he said in an in­ter­view with CNN.

U.S. in­tel­li­gence and home­land se­cu­rity agents have foiled nu­mer­ous ter­ror­ist at­tacks tar­get­ing the na­tion, Mr. Kirby said.

“But it’s go­ing to be very dif­fi­cult to do that when one per­son has it in their mind that they want to kill in­no­cent peo­ple and they will do it in a low-cost way,” the State Depart­ment spokesman said.

Dual re­ports by Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity’s of­fice of in­spec­tor gen­eral in Septem­ber pointed to po­ten­tially gap­ing holes in se­cu­rity around com­mer­cial and non­com­mer­cial truck­ing in the U.S.

While U.S. agen­cies use an “in­tel­li­gence-driven, risk-based se­cu­rity strat­egy” for avi­a­tion-re­lated threats, there is a dearth of re­sources to track threats be­yond avi­a­tion, one Home­land Se­cu­rity re­port says.

Trans­porta­tion Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion chief Peter Nef­fenger told law­mak­ers this year that the ser­vice spends just 3 per­cent of its an­nual bud­get of $7.3 bil­lion on “sur­face trans­porta­tion se­cu­rity ini­tia­tives.”

The Amer­i­can Truck­ing As­so­ci­a­tion state­ment cir­cu­lated Tues­day said only that the or­ga­ni­za­tion “will con­tinue to work with law en­force­ment and home­land se­cu­rity of­fi­cials to strengthen the se­cu­rity of our trans­porta­tion net­works and sup­ply chain.”

ATA Pres­i­dent Chris Spear tes­ti­fied to law­mak­ers in Wash­ing­ton this month that the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s part­ners con­sist of more than 30,000 com­pa­nies, em­ploy­ing some 7 mil­lion work­ers in truck­ingre­lated jobs, in­clud­ing over 3.5 mil­lion com­mer­cial driv­ers.


SOR­ROW: Mourn­ers held a vigil Wed­nes­day, two days after a lone wolf ter­ror­ist used a truck to carry out a mas­sacre at a Christ­mas mar­ket in Ber­lin.


French sol­diers were on pa­trol at the Christ­mas mar­ket in Mar­seille this week after the deadly at­tack Mon­day evening in Ber­lin. The Is­lamic State is us­ing pro­pa­ganda to sel­f­rad­i­cal­ize ter­ror­ists us­ing low-cost, high-im­pact re­sources such as trucks and knives.

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