LONDON, Oct 11, (Agencies): The lines between terrorism and criminality are becoming blurred as an increasing number of former criminals join the Islamic State group and create a “gangster jihad,” according to a British report released Tuesday. Nearly 60 percent of European jihadists studied by researchers had been jailed previously, in essence creating a “super-gang,” said the report from the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence at King’s College London. Once recruited by IS, these people easily transition to committing violence for a different cause, making the group different from other Islamist organizations such as al-Qaeda, which often radicalized students, intellectuals or other previously non-violent individuals to carry out its violent aims, the report said. “They are the perfect fit,” Peter Neumann, the center’s director, said of the criminals bolstering the Islamic State group’s ranks. “Islamic State doesn’t require any intellectual sophistication. It doesn’t ask you to study religion. It makes it all like a computer game.”
The researchers said a growing Islamic State offers criminals a chance at “redemption” without requiring a change in behavior. With recruits who are already accustomed to violence, it is less difficult to persuade them to go further. They are also familiar with weapons and are adept at “staying under the radar” and at logistical planning. While past efforts to stop extremist attacks focused on tracing the complicated international bank transactions that financed militants, IS attacks don’t necessarily require huge sums of money. The center estimated that some 40 percent of such plots in Europe are now being financed in part by street crime like selling drugs or counterfeit goods. One of those involved in the attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo financed his activities by selling counterfeit sports shoes on the streets of Paris.
German authorities received a first tip in early September that the Islamic State group planned attacks on rail stations or airports in the country, and last week tracked down the suspect who was arrested Monday, the head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency said Tuesday. Jaber Albakr, a 22-year-old Syrian who came to Germany as an asylumseeker, was overpowered and tied up in Leipzig by three compatriots, who alerted police.