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Islamic Radicalization: From Idealism to Disillusionment

80 percent of Islamic State recruits have criminal records and some 20 percent were diagnosed with mental health issues

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A woman is seen near flowers and a flag placed in tribute to victims two days after an attack by the driver of a heavy truck who ran into a crowd on Bastille Day killing scores and injuring as many on the Promenade des Anglais, in Nice, France, July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
  • Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel,who killed at least 84 people by driving a truck through crowds in the French town was not a pious muslim
  • Several of the men involved in apparently Islamic State-inspired attacks had a history of crime
  • 80 percent of Islamic State recruits have criminal records and some 20 percent were diagnosed with mental health issues

PARIS -As authorities investigate the motives for a mass killing claimed by Islamic State in Nice late Thursday, analysts say the case appears to highlight a shift in the profile of those launching attacks in the name of hardline Islamist groups.

Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who killed at least 84 people by driving a truck through crowds in the French town, was not a pious, educated man in the mould of Mohamed Atta, one of the hijackers behind the 9-11 attacks in the United States in 2001.

Rather, neighbors and family describe him as a troubled man who lived apart from his wife and three children and drank alcohol, something forbidden by Islam.

“It seems that he was radicalized very quickly,” said French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve.

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That poses a big problem for authorities, who have put much of their focus on tackling hardline Islamist ideology by seeking to spread counter-arguments in schools and mosques.

Tunisia-born Bouhlel, who was shot dead by police, had several run-ins with the law, including a March 2016 conviction for hurling a wooden pallet at a driver in a road rage incident.

His sister also told Reuters he saw psychologists for several years before he left Tunisia in 2005.

His case echoes that of Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people at an Orlando night club in June in the name of Islamic State, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

A candle burns near tributes of flowers two days after an attack by the driver of a heavy truck who ran into a crowd on Bastille Day killing scores and injuring as many on the Promenade des Anglais, in Nice, France, July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
A candle burns near tributes of flowers two days after an attack by the driver of a heavy truck who ran into a crowd on Bastille Day killing scores and injuring as many on the Promenade des Anglais, in Nice, France, July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

Mateen had a troubled youth, was disciplined often at school and, before carrying out his attack, researched medication to treat psychosis, a relative told Reuters.

“Islamic State is an organization which attracts a very broad variety of followers, from the most convinced, to the most adventurous, to the most unstable or psychotic,” said professor Rik Coolsaet, a terrorism expert linked to Ghent University in Belgium.

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Several of the men involved in apparently Islamic State-inspired attacks in Paris in November 2015 and in Brussels in March 2016 also had a history of crime.

Among those responsible in Paris, brothers Brahim and Salah Abdeslam had run a bar in a district of Brussels that was closed down after a police raid found drugs.

Brussels Airport bomber Brahim El Bakraoui, meanwhile, had been sentenced to 10 years in prison for shooting at police during a robbery. His brother Khalid, who also blew himself up at the airport, had got five years for car-jacking.

According to a recent Europol study, some 80 percent of Islamic State recruits have criminal records and some 20 percent were diagnosed with mental health issues.

“In view of this shift away from the religious component in the radicalization of, especially, young recruits, it may be more accurate to speak of a violent extremist social trend rather than using the term radicalization,” Europol wrote.

That creates a broader challenge for authorities seeking to thwart attacks, something made even harder if the perpetrators act without outside help, as appears to be the case in both Orlando and Nice.

“If more people follow the Nice example it will be a nightmare for security services as it is almost impossible to detect,” said Edwin Bakker, professor at the Centre for Terrorism and Counterterrorism at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands.

(Reuters-Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; Editing by Mark Potter)

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Saudi Arabia to Cooperate with India in Combating Terrorism

Prince Salman said Wednesday that there were potential opportunities for investment of $ 100 billion in India.

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Saudi Arabia, Modi, Terrorism
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India, Feb. 20, 2019. VOA

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in New Delhi that terrorism is a common concern and his country would cooperate with India in combating terrorism and extremism.

On a visit to New Delhi, Prince Salman said Wednesday that there were potential opportunities for investment of $ 100 billion in India.

His trip to New Delhi has coincided with spiraling tensions between India and Pakistan in the wake of a terror attack that killed 40 paramilitaries in Indian Kashmir.

Prince Salman’s meetings with Indian leaders came two days after he went to Pakistan. He did not mention the attack on Indian soldiers, but at a joint press appearance with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi he said “we reaffirm to India that we are ready to work in the intelligence sharing and political arenas to coordinate our efforts on terrorism.”

Referring to the recent “barbaric” attack in Kashmir, Modi said that the two countries had agreed that “it is extremely important to increase all possible pressure on countries supporting terrorism in any way.” The Indian leader said that destroying the infrastructure of terrorism, and punishing terrorists and their supporters is necessary.

India, Saudi Arabia, terrorism
The two countries signed five agreements in the areas of investment, tourism, housing and communications. Wikimedia

New Delhi, which accuses Pakistan of giving sanctuary to terror groups that carry out strikes in India, is trying to build diplomatic pressure against Islamabad. It gave Prince Salman a warm welcome with Modi breaking protocol to receive him personally at the airport on Tuesday.

The Saudi Arabian Crown Prince, who also was warmly welcomed in Pakistan, had pledged investment deals worth $ 20 billion during his Islamabad visit.

Modi said that India and Saudi Arabia had agreed to to strengthen cooperation on counter-terrorism, naval and cyber security.

As both leaders hailed deepening ties, they also sounded an optimistic note on building business and trade ties. The Saudi Crown Prince, who came to New Delhi with a large business delegation, said that Riyadh had invested $44 billion in India since 2016. He said that there were opportunities for investment of $ 100 billion in India in areas such as energy, agriculture and technology.

Two-way trade totaled over $ 27 billion last year. Saudi Arabia is a top supplier of oil to India, which is one of the world’s largest oil importers and provides about one fifth of its crude.

India, saudi arabia, terrorism
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, center left, and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, center right, witness the signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Petroleum, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Feb. 17, 2019. VOA

The two countries signed five agreements in the areas of investment, tourism, housing and communications.

Prince Salman said that his visit to India will improve centuries-old ties between the countries, which he said are “in our DNA.” Ties between the two countries have been on an upswing since Modi visited Riyadh in 2016 as part of efforts to strengthen ties with Middle East countries.

ALSO READ: Saudi, India Admit of Putting Pressure on Countries Supporting Terrorism

The Saudi crown prince is on his first major overseas tour since the storm over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October. He is expected to visit China after India. (VOA)