Homegrown Terrorist Cases Bring Focus to Debates on Radicalization

Article excerpt

Since the 9/11 attacks, there have been many public controver sies and debates on how to employ technologies and policies to thwart terrorism.

Less well known have been the discussions in psycho-social academic circles on how a terrorist becomes a terrorist, and whether there can be any steps to prevent a person with radical thoughts from stepping over the line to become a violent extremist.

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Most researchers have given up on the idea that terrorism can be predicted in an individual with a one-size fits all profile. Another theory--that poverty breeds radicalization--may describe some cases. However, many terrorists come from educated, middle-class backgrounds.

Stevan Weine, a professor of psychology at the University of Illinois - Chicago, said the 20 known Somali-American youths in Minneapolis, Minn., who left their communities to carry out terrorist attacks in their homeland, provides one case study.

From late 2007 to early 2008, the young Somali men left their homes in the United States to join the Al Shabaab extremist organization, which is seeking to impose radical Islam in the war-torn East African nation. One 27-year-old recruit died in a suicide car bomb attack in Mogadishu, which left 30 dead.

Despite coming from the same impoverished neighborhood, "the recruits do not fit one profile," Weine testified at a House Homeland Security Committee hearing on the causes of homegrown terrorism. …