THE MAGAZINE

Threat Trends and Possible Strategies

By Lilly Chapa

More than 800 people, including 107 foreigners, were taken hostage for four days in Aménas, Algeria, on January 16, 2013, by al Qaeda terrorists; 39 hostages were killed. In Boston, Massachusetts, on April 15, 2013, two pressure cooker bombs exploded during the Boston Marathon—allegedly planted by two brothers motivated by radical Islamic beliefs; more than 260 people were injured, and three people were killed. In Nairobi, Kenya, September 21, 2013, al Shabaab militants stormed a mall, shooting non-Muslims. More than 200 were injured, with at least 68 killed.

These terrorist attacks top the charts of the incidents that occurred around the world in 2013. Though terrorists still favor traditional methods—explosives and arms—the terrorist threatscape is constantly evolving, and government and security professionals must evolve in how they counter those threats in 2014 and beyond.

Online.
One notable trend that is worth keeping an eye on is terror groups’ use of technologically savvy recruitment methods. Robin McFee, who chairs ASIS International’s Global Terrorism Council, notes how al Qaeda and other extremist groups are leveraging the Internet and video games for recruitment. Extremists are taking to multiplayer networked video games where players can team up—and talk with—anyone in the world.

Sometimes this cyber-radicalization is subtle, like encouraging virtual teammates to fight in the name of a certain ideology, and sometimes it’s more direct, which can be seen in some Internet recruiting forums. Either way, extremist groups are indoctrinating young minds all over the world through online technology. “More and more, cyberspace is being used as a highly effective way of reaching young adults who are susceptible to being indoctrinated,” she says.

Speaking at a panel on online radicalization last year, Peter Neumann, director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, noted that “As older people, we don’t fully get the idea that you can develop social ties to people online.” And Imam Suhaib Webb, of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, noted at the same event that as far back as 2004, the imams began to realize that the Internet was becoming a mosque for the mosqueless. Webb tries to reach them in a positive way through that same medium.
 

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