Last April, a Bosnian court sentenced Munib Ahmetspahic to three years in prison after a guilt admission agreement with the prosecutor. From 2013 to 2018, Ahmetspahic fought in Syria with Jabhat al Nusra and returned to Bosnia with a serious leg amputation. He was detained at the airport in Sarajevo in November 2018. However, Ahmetspahic was not the first returning foreign fighter to be convicted in Bosnia.
Radicalization in prison has long been a critical issue in the West (and beyond), where prisons have sometimes been turned in recruitment and proselytization hubs by different kinds of extremists, including jihadists. As is well known, one of the main concerns is that radicalized subjects may indoctrinate other common detainees. Italy has also been affected by this phenomenon and jihadist radicalization in prison represents a concrete threat.
Despite the several conflicts that were taking place in and around India, Tamil Nadu in South India has been distantly associated with the threat of jihadism and the global threat of terrorism emanating from contemporary jihadist groups. This has changed over the last twenty-four months or so. The attraction that the on-going civil war in Syria holds for foreign fighters has altered this landscape of relative peace.
In the past few years, the MENA region witnessed a rise in jihadist extremism and radicalization, as countries in the area were rocked by a series of deadly terrorist attacks. As authorities responded to the threat, it became clear that in order to effectively counter the phenomenon, traditional repressive measures had to now be accompanied by alternative methods of prevention, rehabilitation and dissuasion.
The collaboration between ISPI and BBC News continues through the BBC’s “Expert Panel” initiative, which seeks to bring together major international think tanks and research centers.
Through this initiative, BBC News hopes to bring its readers around the world an exhaustive set of testimonies, data, and analyses from field experts, in order to be able to look past the news and better understand current events.
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 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.