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European Jihadists and the New Crime-Terror Nexus

New ICSR Report about Criminal Pasts, Terrorist Futures

The famous ICSR institute at King’s College in London released its new study on European jihadists and the increasing convergence between criminal and jihadist milieus, which challenges long-held assumptions about radicalization, recruitment, and how to counter terrorism.

Here the main findings and proposals:


Fifty-seven per cent of the individuals in our database (45 out of 79 profiles) had been incarcerated prior to their radicalisation, with sentences ranging from one month to over ten years, for various offences from petty to violent crime. More significantly, at least 27 per cent of those who spent time in prison (12 out of 45 profiles) radicalised there, although the process often continued and intensified after their release.
Our database highlights different ways in which prisons matter: (1) they are places of vulnerability in which extremists can find plenty of ‘angry young men’ who are ‘ripe’ for radicalisation; (2) they bring together criminals and terrorists, and therefore create opportunities for networking and ‘skills transfers’; and (3) they often leave inmates with few opportunities to re-integrate into society.
‘Skills Transfers’

There are many ‘skills’ that terrorists with criminal pasts may have developed. In particular: (1) individuals with a criminal past tend to have easier access to weapons; (2) they are adept at staying ‘under the radar’ and planning discreet logistics; and (3) their familiarity with violence lowers their (psychological) threshold for becoming involved in terrorist acts.

Jihadists not only condone the use of ‘ordinary’ criminality to raise funds, they have argued that doing so is the ideologically correct way of waging ‘jihad’ in the ‘lands of war’. Combined with large numbers of former criminals in their ranks, this will make financing attacks through crime not only possible and legitimate but, increasingly, their first choice.
Already, up to 40 per cent of terrorist plots in Europe are at least part-financed through ‘petty crime’, especially drug-dealing, theft, robberies, the sale of counterfeit goods, loan fraud, and burglaries. Based on our database, jihadists tend to continue doing what they are familiar with, which means that terrorist financing by criminal means will become more important as the number of former criminals is increasing.

From: New ICSR Report: Criminal Pasts, Terrorist Futures: European Jihadists and the New Crime-Terror Nexus, King’s College, London October 11, 2016