One of the gravest challenges in countering global terrorism and jihadism is the disturbing rise in the number of lone wolves. Many people may ask – is there such a thing as a lone-wolf terrorists?
The lone wolves
There are two ways for the Muslims in becoming lone wolves. In most cases, a lone wolf jihadist is perceived to be one that acts on its own without the support of a jihadist organization for logistics, weapons, or indoctrination. The jihadist coordinated an executed attack by itself, usually without telling anyone. But, a large number of Muslims are turning into lone wolves being brainwashed by Tablighi Jamaat, for example, or radical Muslim preachers like Dr. Zakir Naik.
In my understanding, a love wolf poses a much greater threat than a known jihadist, because, in most of the cases, lone wolves would adopt any policy or take any disguise for achieving success in its notorious agenda of causing harm and destruction to the non-Muslims. A female lone wolf even may enter any club or cabaret under the disguise of a sex worker or strip dancer, and execute its dangerous agenda.
According to the counter-terrorism community, lone wolf attacks are a relatively rare type of terrorist attack but have been increasing in number.
While the lone wolf acts to advance the ideological or philosophical beliefs of an extremist group, they act on their own, without any outside command or direction. The lone wolf’s tactics and methods are conceived and directed solely on their own; in many cases, such as the tactics described by Curtis, the lone wolf never has personal contact with the group they identify with. As such, it is considerably more difficult for counter-terrorism officials to gather intelligence on lone wolves, since they may not come into contact with routine counter-terrorism surveillance.
Scholarship and news reports have used the terms stochastic terrorism and scripted violence to describe how lone-wolf terrorism functions as a way to mobilize an attack with no direct connection between the rhetorical call to action and the date or time of the act of terrorism.
A 2013 analysis by Sarah Teich, a research assistant at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, found five emerging trends in Islamist lone wolf terrorism in North America and western Europe between 1990 and 2013:
An increase in the number of countries targeted by lone wolves from the 1990s to the 2000s.
An increase in the number of people injured and killed by lone wolves.
Increased effectiveness of law enforcement and counter-terrorism.
Consistency in the distribution of attacks by “actor types” (loners, lone wolves, and lone wolf packs).
An increase in the number of attacks against military personnel.
In countries like India, Britain, and the United States, lone wolves may present a greater threat than organized groups, and terrorists have not been limited to Muslims.
Lone wolf terrorists are highly likely to be afflicted by a mental illness. Studies have found that more than 40 percent of lone-wolf terrorists have been diagnosed at some point in their life with a mental illness. This puts lone wolves as being 13.5 times more likely to suffer from a mental illness than a member of an organized terrorist group, such as al-Qaeda or ISIS.
Let me remind my readers that a major segment of the participants of Tablighi Jamaat are from madrassa education. We are aware of the rampant cases of child molestation and sodomy inside the madrassas, which ultimately puts tremendous stress into the minds of the students, thus finally forcing them towards mental illness. Due to such illness, most of the madrassa students bear tremendous hatred towards the affluent class in the society and even consider them as infidels or cohorts of the enemies of Islam. To any madrassa-education individual, the best way to heaven is through becoming ‘martyr’ and killing Jews, Christians and non-Muslims.
Just imagine the degree of threat posed by these madrassa-educated people, especially when they either lead Tablighi Jamaat or participate in it.
The cyber jihad
Another key front of radical Islam and jihadism is the cyber world. While the entire world is focused on combating radical Islamic militancy on the ground, another ‘world’ – the web is being gradually hijacked by radical Islam and jihadist theories thus creating hundreds and thousands of lone wolves — notorious monsters that pose the gravest threat to peace, security, and humanity.
Whether scholars will agree or not – Muslims are greatly inspired by their holy scriptures – the Koran and Hadith to kill Jews, Christians, and infidels. Radical Islamic militancy groups always cite the verses in those scriptures as an “instruction from Allah” to wage jihad against Jews, Christians and infidels. And the most disturbing fact is – these provocative messages are spreading fast mostly through the internet amongst the Muslim community in the world, thus posing a huge threat to global security. While policymakers are feeling delighted in seeing radical Islamic militancy been contained in most of the countries, the cyber jihad is gradually expanding fangs reaching households and even radicalizing the children.
The jihadist flagship organization al Qaeda has had a degree success in combining its 14th-century Islamic ideology with its skillful use of 21st-century technology to conduct a two-pronged approach of attracting followers to the cause and attacking its enemies. Cyber jihad fits perfectly with al Qaeda’s strategy of dispersed cells that can either carry out attacks on their own [Lone Wolf] and in small groups [Wolf Pack], or affiliate with a larger organization (i.e. through training camps) in a Muslim-dominated region of the world.
Cyber jihad differs mainly from cyber terrorism in the sense that it constitutes information presented on behalf of a terrorist organization or lone jihadist whereas the latter usually refers to “hacking attacks” in order to wage economic, political, and psychological warfare. For now, cyber jihad is essentially a means to an end: a resource. As such, there has been a growing trend to see terrorist groups relying on the Internet for propaganda and communication rather than for attacking it, although this trend could inverse with time. Ultimately, the Internet has proved to be the most efficient medium to quickly spread information to a worldwide audience while greatly reducing the risk of being detected.
The types of attacks that spawn from internet jihad can range from IED [Improvised Explosive Device] placements around Fallujah, Iraq, to the major bombing of a European train station. The Internet has become such an essential global phenomenon, that most jihadists could do very little without it. Cyber jihad demonstrates the dichotomy of the Internet: a device to facilitate the flow of information for the progress of society, and a device that can use its principal tenants to conduct sinister activities. Moreover, the Internet is something that can translate into the physical world, just as cyber jihad can translate into violent jihadization.
In 2012, Lisa Abend in an article in TIME magazine wrote, “The enemies of Allah who boast of their freedoms have not spared any effort to eradicate our blessed media.” After two weeks of silence, the jihadist forum Shamukh al Islam came back online yesterday with a gloat: an apparent cyber-attack against Shamukh and four similar sites had failed to shut it down permanently. But terrorism analysts see the event in a different light. As they investigate the mystery of who caused the outage and why most can’t help seeing in the blackout one more piece of evidence that al-Qaeda is in disarray.
“Websites like Shamukh al Islam perform a critical function in jihadist circles. Loaded with videos that depict alleged Western atrocities against Muslims, they recruit supporters, while their chat rooms and forums allow jihadists around the globe to communicate with one another and exchange information, including instructions on bomb construction and chemical warfare.”
In 2016, CNBC in a report said, “Much of the chatter on jihadi chat boards comes from Europeans and Americans, often social outcasts living vicariously through the online reputation of their handle — including disenfranchised teens or jailhouse Muslim converts turned radicals, Scott said. They may not have strong coding skills, but they have access to Western institutions and businesses and are looking to leverage that access to serve ISIS.”
As we know, there are few thousand jihadist websites in the world while social media networks as well as video sharing sites too are being used by the jihadist groups in luring people towards militancy. Moreover, jihadist also is using various messaging apps such as Telegram in spreading hatred and giving provocation to the Muslims in waging “holy war” against the Jews, Christians, and the “infidels”. Those jihadist groups even do not hesitate in posting names of their targets in some of the social media and or share it through secured messaging apps.
According to my research, jihadist websites are operated mainly by using servers from Russia and Canada. There also are jihadist websites using offshore servers as well as servers from the United Kingdom. Although many countries are regularly hunting such websites and social media and video sharing account of the jihadists, the emergence of such sites and accounts could not be totally stopped yet.
In the research I have seen, whenever one of the jihadist websites are taken down, at least four of such websites are almost immediately emerging on the web. It’s like the most difficult mission or the toughest-ever challenges faced by the counterterrorism experts and organizations around the world.
For decades, Western policymakers and even counter-terrorism experts were in dark about the ultimate agenda of Tablighi Jamaat. Such misreading of Tablighi Jamaat actions and motives has serious implications for the war on terrorism. One of the most vital points about the Tablighi Jamaat is, it has always adopted and followed the extreme interpretation of Sunni Islam, but in the past two-plus decades, it has radicalized to the point where it is now one of the key driving forces of radical Islam and jihad and a major recruiting agency for the jihadist causes worldwide.
For many years, I have tried to alert the international community, especially the anti-jihadist forces around the world about the potential danger posed by Tablighi Jamaat.
In the western nations, Tablighi Jamaat is continuing its activities from inside the mosques and Muslim community centers. I have witnessed, how hundreds of Muslims have been mesmerized towards radical Islam and jihad by the Tablighi preachers in the mosques and Muslim community centers in the United States, Italy, Britain, and a number of western countries.
If the world cannot immediately raise voice against Tablighi Jamaat and ban activities of this dangerous organization, we may have a potential threat of terrorist attacks right from the other side of the doors.