The stay-at-home ter­ror­ist

The Lon­don at­tacks demon­strate ter­ror­ism isn’t al­ways im­ported

The Washington Times Daily - - COMMENTARY - By Brid­get Johnson Brid­get Johnson is a se­nior fel­low with the news and pub­lic pol­icy group Haym Salomon Cen­ter and D.C. bureau chief for PJ Me­dia.

With an­other ter­ror­ist at­tack strik­ing Bri­tain as the United King­dom was still in shock over a sui­cide bomber tar­get­ing teens in Manch­ester, heads of state once again de­clared sol­i­dar­ity with the tar­geted na­tion and vowed to stomp out the in­sid­i­ous ter­ror threat. “As pres­i­dent, I will do what is nec­es­sary is to pre­vent this threat from spread­ing to our shores,” Pres­i­dent Trump said af­ter the Lon­don Bridge and Bor­ough Mar­ket at­tacks.

But with ter­ror­ist af­ter ter­ror­ist strik­ing the coun­try where they were born or raised, that strat­egy must be­gin on the in­side. Our great­est threat is not a ship-to-shore phe­nom­e­non. It’s not lurk­ing out there, try­ing to sneak in. It’s al­ready here. The sooner we get out of the rut of think­ing that ter­ror is an im­port, the sooner we ac­knowl­edge it’s cul­ti­vated on our home soil, the bet­ter chance we have of suc­cess­fully fight­ing it.

We face the stay-at-home ter­ror­ist who doesn’t need a rad­i­cal imam at the cor­ner mosque, ex­trem­ist par­ents or way­ward friends to get on the path of ji­had. As a for­mer friend of one of the Lon­don Bridge at­tack­ers told United King­dom me­dia, all it ap­par­ently took was ji­had-jus­ti­fi­ca­tion YouTube videos from Amer­i­can preacher Ah­mad Musa Jib­ril.

The stay-at-home ter­ror­ist is cre­ated by in­cite­ment, re­cruit­ing and train­ing ma­te­ri­als that know no bor­ders, seep­ing in through the Internet, so­cial me­dia and the dark Web. This is the uni­ver­sal ji­hadist, schooled on ISIS mag­a­zines, al Qaeda lec­tures, Tal­iban op-eds and Al-Shabaab videos. Even if they claim al­le­giance to one group, their jour­ney from zero to ter­ror­ist has been molded through a col­lec­tive ef­fort.

The stay-at-home ter­ror­ist may be a re­cruit preyed on for his vul­ner­a­bil­ity and reeled in, much like street gangs pull new mem­bers into their or­bit and turn them into at­tack­ers and re­cruiters. Var­ied back­grounds and rea­sons for their ul­ti­mate se­duc­tion into ji­had can make them even more dif­fi­cult to pin­point and stop. The stay-at-home ter­ror­ist usu­ally shows a change in re­li­gious ob­ser­vance that’s ob­vi­ous to those around them, but he or she also isn’t sub­ject to Is­lamic pu­rity tests — things like drink­ing, drugs, smok­ing, wom­an­iz­ing con­ve­niently get­ting a pass — from the re­cruit­ing ter­ror groups that will take any­one will­ing to kill.

The stay-at-home ter­ror­ist can be hooked in so many ways by ter­ror groups whose on­line strate­gies are im­pres­sively adap­tive. The Tal­iban who once rev­eled in their Stone Age rule now op­er­ate a video stu­dio and an English-lan­guage ji­had web­site. Rolling with the news cy­cle, al Qaeda’s al-Nafir Bul­letin de­liv­ers quick-hit jus­ti­fi­ca­tions for Western­ers to strike their home turf.

ISIS’ Ru­miyah magazine pub­lishes monthly ter­ror tac­tic tu­to­ri­als from arson to truck ram­mings to pounc­ing on vic­tims tak­ing a late-night stroll. Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula re­cently launched In­spire video ad­dresses from 39-year-old leader Qasim al-Raymi, lec­tures dan­ger­ous not just for their con­tent but for al-Raymi’s con­ver­sa­tional de­liv­ery. “We do not view you as an in­di­vid­ual — even though it is re­ferred to as in­di­vid­ual ji­had. We rather view you as a group, a brigade, or even an army in it­self,” al-Raymi said in a May video. “Don’t com­pli­cate mat­ters, take it easy and sim­ple, the same as our brother [Or­lando shooter] Omar Ma­teen did.” The best line of de­fense against the stay-at-home ter­ror­ist is the friend con­cerned that their one-time gym-rat pal is now rav­ing about the bril­liance of An­war al-Awlaki, the rel­a­tive who sees his kin try­ing to rent a mov­ing truck when no­body’s mov­ing or, as re­port­edly hap­pened in the Lon­don at­tack, the neigh­bor who called po­lice when a guy was try­ing to woo and rad­i­cal­ize lo­cal chil­dren in the park. Peo­ple who saw some­thing and said some­thing be­fore at­tacks re­port ad na­seum that their calls seemed to van­ish into a coun­tert­er­ror­ism black hole. Stay-at-home ter­ror­ists are mem­bers of the com­mu­nity, known as stu­dents, shop work­ers, se­cu­rity guards and more be­fore they de­cided to kill. Overextended au­thor­i­ties pri­or­i­tize th­ese sus­pects by an­tic­i­pated risk, but must lis­ten to those clos­est to the red flags as the next ter­ror­ists are, again, cre­ated right here at home.

The best line of de­fense against the stay-at-home ter­ror­ist is the friend con­cerned that their one­time gym-rat pal is now rav­ing about the bril­liance of An­war al-Awlaki.

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