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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
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  • 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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InfoWars’ Tweets Will Remain Live on Twitter, Despite Violations

Among the seven tweets found to have violated Twitter's rules, two of it occurred recently enough that Twitter could cite them in the future to take additional punitive action against Jones' accounts.

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Twitter on a smartphone device. VOA

Twitter said the accounts belonging to US conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his media organisation InfoWars will remain online for now, one day after an investigation found that his accounts appeared to have repeatedly violated the company’s rules.

A Twitter spokesperson said the company concluded that of the more than a dozen tweets included in CNN’s Thursday report, seven were found to have violated Twitter’s rules, CNNMoney reported on Friday.

CNN’s investigation found that InfoWars’ and Jones’ Twitter accounts had published content that degraded groups of people on the basis of their religion and gender identity, engaged in the harassment of individuals, glorified violence, and promoted conspiracy theories about the Sandy Hook and Parkland shootings.

Twitter would have required those tweets to be deleted, if they were to have remained up, the report said.

But after CNN’s investigation was published, the tweets cited in it were almost immediately deleted from the social media website.

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After CNN’s investigation was published, the tweets cited in it were almost immediately deleted from the social media website. Pixabay

Jones said on his programme that he had instructed his staff to do so and “take the super high road”, though he contested whether the tweets violated any Twitter rules.

Among the seven tweets found to have violated Twitter’s rules, two of it occurred recently enough that Twitter could cite them in the future to take additional punitive action against Jones’ accounts, the spokesperson said.

The other five tweets occurred before a set of bolstered Twitter rules were put into place in December 2017. While Twitter required those tweets be deleted, the company cannot use them as grounds to take further action against the accounts, the spokesperson said.

Also Read: Twitter CEO Expands on Why He Won’t Ban Alex Jones, Infowars

The Twitter spokesperson was not immediately able to provide CNN with the specific tweets the company had determined to have violated its rules.

“We will continue to review any content that is flagged to us and take action as appropriate,” the spokesperson said. (IANS)