The video message recently released by the al-Furqan media network, showing Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi for the first time since 2014, turned the spotlight on the presence of the Islamic State (IS) in the Sahel – the region of Western Africa south of Sahara.
Over the last three years Europe and North America have been hit by an unprecedented wave of terrorist attacks perpetrated by individuals motivated by jihadist ideology. Who are the individuals who have carried out these attacks? Were they born and raised in the West? Or were they an “imported threat”, refugees and migrants? How did they radicalize? Were they well educated and integrated, or social outcasts? Did they act alone? What were their connections to the Islamic State?
The answers to these and other questions have large implications for our understanding of the threat facing us and, consequently, help us design sounder policy solutions built on empirical evidence. This study, the first of its kind, seeks to analyze the demographic profile, radicalization trajectories and connections to the Islamic State of all the individuals who have carried out attacks.
The vast majority of jihadists come from or have connections with specific areas or districts within different states. They can be labelled as local/regional "hotbeds" of extremism, each of the them with unique characteristics that lead to "exporting" fighters or creating IS–controlled zones. What are the differences and similarities amongst the various "hotbeds"? Which are the causes and who are the largest contributors to the jihadist militancy?
The building for conjugal visits on the right, the ceremony hall on the left, and in front of us the massive complex of Hair prisons, few kilometres away from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. "We have nothing to hide, the doors of our prisons are open" is the slogan welcoming visitors at the entrance. In these prisons, the de-radicalization program starts and it continues in the rehabilitation center.
Recent analyses reveal that the vast majority of jihadists come from or have some connections with specific areas or districts within different states. One can describe them as local/regional “hotbeds” of extremism. Molenbeek in Belgium, Gornje Maoče and Ošve in Bosnia-Hercegovina, Minneapolis in the US, Kasserine and Ben Guerdane in Tunisia, Sirte and Derna in Libya, Sinai in Egypt, Pankisi Valley and Dagestan in the Caucasus: each area has unique characteristics that lead to “exporting” fighters or creating new IS-controlled zones.
Starting from the debate on the origin and nature of jihadist militancy that is dividing the most important scholars of Islam, this report outlines a broad spectrum of radicalization factors leading to the emergence of jihadists hotbeds, such as poverty, unemployment, lack of job prospects, juvenile delinquency, trafficking and smuggling, socio-political, economic and physical marginalization, the role of Salafist ideology as well as the influence of brotherhood networks. All these elements have been frequently highlighted as factors or triggers that could contribute to explaining dynamics of radicalization leading to active violent militancy under the ideals of jihadism.
To get a better sense of both the differences and similarities amongst the various hotbeds, the report provides an overview of some of the largest contributors to Islamic extremists and foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq.
Not all extremists are under investigation - At the end of last year, just over 1,000 Islamist extremists across all 50 states were being actively investigated by the FBI. In order to open an investigation, the FBI needs to have evidence of criminal behavior, or high suspicion of criminal behavior.
Social media, videos, online magazines, local radios, pamphlets and posters: ISIS has proven capable of adapting its communication strategy to strengthen its power locally, recruit new fighters or influence public opinion in Western and Arab nations. Not just images of war and summary executions but also constant propaganda to show that it controls its territory and is able to provide for its inhabitants’ needs.
This book analyzes the propaganda of the Islamic State, thanks to articles by researchers, communication experts and journalists. The purpose is to paint an exhaustive picture of the subject, combining meticulous examination of the historical and symbolic references in ISIS videos with careful analysis of editing and post-production techniques.
In addition, the book contains materials coming from the territories controlled by the so-called caliphate. These documents provide a better understanding of the internal propaganda of the Islamic State and the strategy it uses to create a narrative of the enemy serving its ideological designs.
At this year's Security Conference in Munich, the European Union's High Representative Federica Mogherini named Ukraine and Libya as her top priorities. She explained, "In Libya there is the perfect mix ready to explode and in case it explodes, it will explode just at the gates of Europe. […] The combination of elements present there is extremely dangerous for us and for the security of the region"(1).
As the dust and emotions still settle over the attacks by jihadists in Paris, there has been a great deal of commentary on the lessons we should derive from this tragedy. The focus has largely been on free speech, integration, intelligence failures, and the competing claims of responsibility by the Islamic State and Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). So what lessons should we draw?
A Matter of Integration?
13 years after the tragic events of 9/11, al-Qa‘ida can count on as many regional nodes as never before as well as on a still significant influence over the wider jihadi galaxy, thus showing the strenght of its message and of its modus operandi.
However, the past few years were marked by the surge of a number of factions that, while sharing several features with the group founded by Osama bin Laden, developed new and often competing political views. Such new actors pose a threat to al-Qa‘ida’s supremacy over the whole jihadi community.
In this context, the e-book "New (and old) patterns of jihadism: al-Qa'ida, the Islamic State and beyond" will adrees the following questions: how did the Islamic State emerge in Iraq and Syria? How serious is the challenge it poses to the international community and to al-Qa‘ida? What impact is to be expected on the Tunisian and Libyan Ansar al-Shariah branches operating throughout North Africa and beyond? Can Sinai become the next frontier of jihadism, and how is it affected by instability in Libya and Palestine? Who are the European jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq? How do security agencies perceive the threat of transnational extremist networks, and which strategies do they implement to face them?