Threats from within
where the experts come to talk
This month in
NATO Review
Threats from within
In this new section of the homegrown terrorism edition, we ask players directly involved in the fight how they approach it. From a former extremist, who's now committed to fighting extremism, to the EU's coordinator of counter-terrorism, we hear how to arm against homegrown terrorism. We also hear about the testimonies of previous homegrown terrorists, to see what they felt they were achieving. And we hear from a psychologist expert, who gives us her take on whether the economic downturn will help homegrown recruitment.
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Few can give a more personal insight into how serious home-grown terrorism is than Maajid Nawaz. Formerly a member of Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir, he now heads up a counter-extremist foundation. Here he explains why people are drawn to extremism and what it means for potential responses.
Homegrown terrorism is clearly a domestic, national issue. So how can a multinational organisation like the EU play a meaningful role? The man who fills the post of EU counter-terrorism coordinator explains what can - and can't - be done by the EU. And highlights some of the impacts it has already had.
Germany has suffered from right wing, left wing and religious homegrown terrorist attacks and activities. Here, Rolf Tophoven outlines what can be learned from the country's experiences.
Will the present economic downturn - with its higher rates of youth unemployment, depression and disillusionment - have any impact on homegrown terrorist recruitment or activity? Dr Brooke Roger looks at how much we can know.
Mitch Silber has looked through masses of profiles of homegrown terrorists and their motivations in his role as the Director of the New York Police Department’s Intelligence Division and Cyber Units. Here he presents some of the main themes that emerged from that analysis.
Jason Burke has followed the evolution of al Qaida since the last century. Here he looks at how the group has evolved, where it stands now - and the implications for homegrown terrorism.
The tag ‘homegrown terrorism’ may be new. But the activity certainly isn’t. This photostory highlights some previous examples – stretching back almost a century.
Seek and you shall find is an old phrase. But it is an apt one, argues Benjamin Friedman, when applied to the search for something which has almost certainly always been there.
The threat from homegrown terrorists is clearly a security issue. But it is one largely dealt with by national intelligence and security forces – not the military. So what exactly can NATO do to counter it? And how does this fit into NATO's wider fight against terrorism? We ask NATO’s counter terrorism expert.
Homegrown terrorism is not new, argues Marc Sageman. It is as old as political struggle. But it does have new elements in it – not least being the Internet.
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I come from London. Growing up, I didn’t need anyone to explain terrorism to me. I saw it on my doorstep.

I had been in places in London that were later bombed. And I saw almost weekly news reports of more terrorist attacks elsewhere in the UK, usually Northern Ireland.

I come from an Anglo-Irish family – parents from Ireland, children brought up in England. So, in some small way, I had the conflicted background that can – thankfully rarely – lead some to see their own country as the enemy.

While I was able to see both sides of the Northern Ireland story, there are others who are blinkered into seeing just one side’s view.

This is what happened in London on 7/7.

The men who committed that atrocity were British. But elements of their background, culture and religious extremism made them see Britain (and the West in general) as the enemy.

I come from London. Growing up, I didn’t need anyone to explain terrorism to me. I saw it on my doorstep.

I had been in places in London that were later bombed. And I saw almost weekly news reports of more terrorist attacks elsewhere in the UK, usually Northern Ireland.

I come from an Anglo-Irish family – parents from Ireland, children brought up in England. So, in some small way, I had the conflicted background that can – thankfully rarely – lead some to see their own country as the enemy.

While I was able to see both sides of the Northern Ireland story, there are others who are blinkered into seeing just one side’s view.

This is what happened in London on 7/7.

The men who committed that atrocity were British. But elements of their background, culture and religious extremism made them see Britain (and the West in general) as the enemy.

For them, attacking their countrymen was an act showing their religion was more important than their country. And, ultimately, more important than their own lives.

These ‘homegrown’ terrorists are not in the mould of their predecessors. Their zeal, for example, is not just confined to their cause. It extends to dying for that cause.

As I prepared for this edition on homegrown terrorism, there was a flood of information in the news about whether we should be more or less worried about homegrown terrorists.

The head of Britain’s MI5 agency claimed that the Arab Spring would provide new breeding grounds for British terrorists. As new Arab countries opened up, he argued, there was evidence that British jihadis had travelled to them for training.

On the same day as I write this, a white British Muslim convert – Richard Dart – was arrested by British police for allegedly planning a terror attack in the UK.

But balancing all of this out with perhaps the most interesting facts of all was a report by the UK’s reviewer of terror laws, David Anderson. He pointed out that there had not been a single al Qaida attack in Europe in 2011, that nobody in the UK has even been injured by such an attack for over two years and concluded that the threat is ‘sometimes exaggerated for political or commercial purposes’.

He finished by pointing out that the annual average of five deaths from terrorism in Britain during this century was the same number who had died each year from bee stings.

And it is with this question of perspective that our excellent contributors outline how they see the subject in this edition of NATO Review.

Paul King

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