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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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Guilty Plea For The Pittsburgh Shooting Suspect

Trump shook hands with the synagogue's rabbi, Jeffrey Myers

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Pittsburgh shooting
This courtroom sketch depicts Robert Gregory Bowers, who was wounded in a gun battle with police as he appeared in a wheelchair at federal court. VOA

The man accused of killing 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue pleaded not guilty Thursday in a U.S. federal court on 44 charges that include murder and hate crimes.

Robert Bowers, 46, spoke little during the brief court appearance beyond saying he understood the charges and his “not guilty” plea.

A grand jury indicted Bowers on Wednesday in connection with the October 27 attack at the Tree of Life synagogue.

In announcing the indictment, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the alleged crimes “are incomprehensibly evil and utterly repugnant to the values of this nation. Therefore this case is not only important to the victims and their loved ones, but to the city of Pittsburgh and the entire nation.”

 

USA Shooting, pittsburgh
Pittsburgh police stand guard as the casket of Irving Younger, 69, is wheeled from Congregation Rodef Shalom after his funeral, VOA

 

Victims’ funerals 

Funerals for the victims continue Thursday with services for Bernice and Sylvan Simon, as well as Dr. Richard Gottfried.

On Wednesday, hundreds of friends gathered to pay tribute to Melvin Wax, 88, who was leading Sabbath services on Saturday when the gunman burst into the synagogue shouting, “All Jews must die!” and began shooting. Funerals also were held for retired real estate agent Irving Younger, 69, and retired university researcher Joyce Fienberg, 75.

Trump visit 

U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump visited the synagogue on Tuesday, placing a stone at each of the 11 Stars of David set up outside. Placing stones at a grave or remembrance site is an ancient Jewish tradition.

Trump also met with police officers wounded by gunfire in a shootout as they apprehended Bowers and spent an hour talking with Peg Durachko, whose husband, Dr. Richard Gottfried, was among the 11 killed.

shooting, pittsburgh
A sign during a protest gathering on the block of the Jewish Community Center in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, where the funeral for Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz. VOA

“Melania and I were treated very nicely yesterday in Pittsburgh,” Trump said on Twitter. “The Office of the President was shown great respect on a very sad & solemn day. We were treated so warmly.”

Protests 

Several thousand protesters demonstrated in the streets during Trump’s visit, contending that his rhetoric helped fuel the gunman’s anti-Semitism and anti-immigrant views against a Jewish group that aids refugees arriving in the U.S. from overseas. Trump complained about news coverage of the several hours he spent in Pittsburgh.

“Small protest was not seen by us, staged far away,” he said. “The Fake News stories were just the opposite-Disgraceful!”

Trump shook hands with the synagogue’s rabbi, Jeffrey Myers, and the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer.

pittsburgh shooting
Flowers surround Stars of David on Oct. 31, 2018, part of a makeshift memorial outside the Tree of Life Synagogue to the 11 people killed during worship services Saturday in Pittsburgh., VOA

Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner — wearing a Jewish yarmulke — and daughter Ivanka Trump, who converted to Judaism when she married Kushner, accompanied the first couple to offer their condolences.

“The president was very moved by the visit and his time with the rabbi and called it very humbling and sad,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters.

Also Read: Trump Meets Florida School Shooting Survivors, Suggests Arming Teachers

Worst attack in history 

The Anti-Defamation League, which has tracked hatred and violence against Jews since the 1970s, said the Pittsburgh mayhem was the worst attack against the Jewish community in U.S. history. (VOA)