Marc Sageman: Home-grown terrorism now main threat
(The Australian) FIVE years ago, the average terrorist was in his mid-20s, married with kids, university-educated, middle-class, psychologically stable and probably an engineer.
Today, he’s more likely to be poor, of limited education and a second- or third-generation product of the culture he is attacking.
Former CIA case officer turned psychiatrist Marc Sageman told the Safeguarding Australia Summit in Canberra yesterday the typical profile of a terrorist had changed since the attacks of September 11, 2001 and the Iraq invasion.
The well-educated young men who were radicalised while studying in the West (engineering was the most common degree) and who conducted the 9/11 attacks, had been replaced by self-trained, self-recruited and, thanks to the welfare state, self-financed “terrorist wannabes”.
Dr Sageman said al-Qaeda’s leaders had been all but cut off from the current crop of jihadists and comprised no more than two dozen people.
The threat was now coming from home-grown young men in their early 20s who recruited mostly on the internet.
Dr Sageman said there were “potentially thousands” of these “new” terrorists, although they were incapable of replacing older terror networks because of their self-organising, independent structure. Many were petty criminals or gang members who eventually drifted back to their Islamic roots.
Their actions were inspired by a sense of “moral outrage” at perceived grievances against Muslims, usually focusing on Iraq, reinforced by personal experiences of alienation in their host countries.
Dr Sageman said that well-intentioned attempts by governments to change attitudes within the Muslim community by promoting moderate interpretations of Islam were likely to fail as a result.
“That’s not why they join. They join for the glory,” he said.
Kinship bonds were the glue that held most terror cells together, rather than ethnicity, religion or ideology, he said.
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