Western-born Muslims are seen as being the biggest threat
YOUNG Western-born Muslims recruited in universities, mosques and on the internet are increasingly being turned to jihad by terrorist networks, which train them in Islamic countries to support and conduct attacks on their homelands.
The return of brainwashed sleeper agents trained in counter-intelligence and covert fundraising, as well as the use of explosives, was the "biggest threat to humanity in modern times", said Boaz Ganor, founder of the Israeli-based Institute of Counter-Terrorism.
"They are looking for them in mosques ... in the youth centres ... on the web ... relying on social acquaintances and also family ties and universities," Dr Ganor told a conference hosted by the institute in the resort city of Herzliya yesterday.
He said terror organisations used psychological strategies to win the hearts of "specific" young Muslims through either indirect recruitment platforms such as the internet, and direct ones such as combing radical mosques and prayer halls.
Extremists looked for recruits who were not integrated into Western society and wanted to reinvent themselves.
"They are looking for people who are alienated from society, they're looking for people that have religious devotion, they're looking for those who believe that they are discriminated against," Dr Ganor said.
Converts to Islam with a proclivity for violence and fanaticism were also considered good recruits. "They are using this idea of divine command, saying 'we are just messengers and it is God that demands you to do this job ... we have to save Islam'.
"(But) when you spread a network like that, sometimes you get fissures that you don't expect to get because these alienated, frustrated youngsters are not just in the Muslim society, and therefore we see another phenomenon, which are converts."
Last month, The Australian revealed that dozens of violent criminals in Sydney were being brainwashed by hardliners and converting to radical Islam in jail, creating a serious national security time bomb.
Dr Ganor said of the recruits: "They are usually being trained in other countries - it could be Pakistan or another place - and then they are infiltrated again into the old society as an indoctrinated, trained sleeper that are just sitting and waiting for the order.
"Some of them are being used for fundraising missions, some of them are being used for collection of intelligence and for recruiting others. But we have to understand ... that some of them are being used for this mission of launching a terrorist attack on Western society."
Another expert on Islamic terrorism who spoke at the conference, Steven Emerson, told The Australian that terrorist organisations were increasingly shifting towards training their recruits on how to become better intelligence agents and expose the weaknesses of their enemies.
"It's in al-Qa'ida's manual to do better counter-intelligence, to do observation, surveillance, reconnaissance," he said. "That's critical to any good terrorist apparatus. You always have to have a reconnaissance man.
"Hezbollah excels in reconnaissance - sending back to Tehran videos that they have witnessed in terms of the vulnerabilities."
Dr Ganor said Muslim communities worldwide needed to take the initiative in exposing and thwarting the actions of radicals.
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