That makes them easier to spot
by ROBERT BECKHUSEN
The Islamic State, or ISIS, has found growing success recruiting teenagers and pre-teens in the West to plot and carry out attacks, according to CTC Sentinel, the Combat Terrorism Center at West Point’s monthly newsletter.
More curious, very few of these plots are planned by “lone wolves,” or self-radicalized terrorists who do not have any contact with a larger network or group. In fact, more often than not, the teenagers are not “self-radicalizing” but are being lured directly by members of the terrorist organization.
Of 34 I.S.-directed or inspired plots by teenagers in Western countries since September 2014, only 20 percent were truly solo, according to the report. More than 17 percent involved domestic terrorist cells without contact with the Islamic State, while 50 percent of the total involved electronic contact and another 11.8 percent involved direct, in-person contact.
“Therefore, the primary terror threat cannot be said to come from teenage loners,” [our emphasis] noted Robin Simcox, a counter-terrorism researcher at the Heritage Foundation and author of the report. “The dissemination of its propaganda online is part of the reason the Islamic State has been able to find unparalleled success with this demographic group,” Simcox added.
It may seem obvious, but it’s important for counter-terrorism work. While there is much attention given to social, psychological, ideological and even economic causes behind why people become terrorists — it’s also the case that for many impressionable would-be jihadists, they might not have radicalized if they simply hadn’t been lured in by somebody else.
Kill the recruiters, and there might be fewer recruits.
“The increase in social media platforms, their popularity with the millennial generation, and that same generation’s technological savviness in using them have all aided the Islamic State’s efforts,” the report noted.
Case in point are Abdelmalik Petitjean and Adel Kermiche, who both at the age of 19 — most younger I.S. recruits have had their identities kept secret due to their age — murdered 86-year-old priest Jacques Hamel in the Normandy commune of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray.
Both young men had apparently been in touch with Rachid Kassim, a French national, ex-rapper and prominent Islamic State recruiter who was possibly killed in a U.S. air strike near Mosul in February 2017. It’s unclear whether Kassim’s death will do much to reduce the terror group’s ability to lure youth into its cause.
However, the deaths of recruiters in air strikes, the loss of territory and a reduction in propaganda — as the Islamic State goes quiet while under pressure from Western signals intelligence — will probably not help the terror group. The Islamic State would probably prefer to broadcast more propaganda, and have more recruiters working around the clock.
Simcox notes that the pace of attacks in the West have increased markedly. Tougher barriers to traveling to Syria and Iraq is likely contributing to more plots in the West as recruits search for targets closer to home.
“The threat posed by radicalized teens and pre-teens — of both sexes — has increased since the Islamic State declared its caliphate,” the CTC Sentinel article notes.
“This reality has already led to two deaths and over two dozen injuries in the West and makes a persuasive case for a greater counter-terrorism focus on Islamic State operatives inciting and directing precisely this kind of attack.”
Fortunately, several plots were prevented because parents reported their radicalized children to the authorities. Parents — not the police — will often most likely be the first to spot signs that a youth is radicalizing. One of the first priorities of a counter-terror strategy should be to help parents, without criminalizing classes of people or frightening them into being silent.