Assessments

Clandestine individuals support terrorist groups


Monday، September 19، 2016
Clandestine individuals support terrorist groups

The terrorist attacks that have taken place in various countries recently indicate the presence of secret roles undertaken by individuals who provide different types of support to the terrorists who conduct these operations. These individuals help ensure that the terrorist organizations to which they belong or support continues to persist on the one hand, and increase the likelihood of implementation and success for these operations on the other. Many countries have begun paying special attention to these roles. For example, French President Francois Hollande pointed out on 19 March 2016 that “Anyone who allowed, organized, or facilitated implementation of these attacks must be arrested,” while commenting on Belgian authorities’ announcing that they had arrested Salah Abdel Salam, a prime suspect in the Paris attacks of November 2015. Belgian officials also arrested three other members of the same family on the charges of harboring Salah Abdel Salam. Then the term “lone wolves” came into use to describe those who provided hidden support to terrorists, due to their abilities to go unnoticed and avoid any activity which may lead to them being identified or impair the roles they undertake.

Prominent Activity

The confession given by Harry Sarfo, a German who grew up in the UK and joined ISIS in Syria before announcing his defection, described some features of the roles played by these individuals in implementing terrorist operations. He explained that ISIS leaders continually exhorted sympathizers to provide support for the terrorists in implementing high-impact terrorist attacks in some European nations. These attacks were aimed at both pressuring the latter not to participate in military operations launched against the ISIS organization in Syria and Iraq and proving that the organization still has the ability to implement high-impact attacks despite the continuing strikes.

One of the most prominent examples of this phenomenon includes the incident where individuals provided information to terrorists who attacked Ben Guerdane in Tunisia on 7 March 2016. Various individuals also helped terrorist Salah Abdel Salah, the prime suspect in the Paris bombings, to flee and hide. It is difficult for anyone who clearly belongs to a religious movement or terrorist organization to undertake this role, and thus anonymous individuals are tasked with this type of activity so as not to draw attention to the work that they do.

Several Features

It is possible to establish a set of criteria which can determine the form and features of groups that include individuals that provide hidden support to terrorists, in order to distinguish them from other groups such as lone wolves, terrorist organizations, or even those who sympathize intellectually with terrorist organizations. The most important of these criteria are:

1. Working individually: Individuals that provide support or funding to terrorist organizations or groups that undertake terrorist attacks do so completely on their own. They have no relationship to the groups that they practice these roles for, which makes it more difficult for security agencies to identify them, especially if they succeed in arresting the group and thwarting their plans to carry out a terror attack.

2. Superficial Links: Individuals that provide support to terrorists are careful not to have organizational links to any terrorist organization. Even those who were previously members of religious groups and now support terrorists typically completely cut their ties with the organizations and provide their support indirectly according to several reports. They are keen to emphasize a distance from participating in the activities undertaken by these organizations.

Here, several trends began to indicate that these individuals have not reached a point where they are completely convinced of the ideas and orientations of the terrorist organization which would transform them from an individual providing support to terrorists into the terrorist who actually carries out the attack.

3. Confidence: In many cases, the task of providing support to terrorists is carried out by one trusted individual who serves as a mediator between the terrorist and the organization. This imposes numerous obstacles on the process of monitoring plans and is established by terrorist organizations to carry out high-impact attacks.

4. Indirect support: These individuals provide set types of support which can most often be obscured, such as facilitating the harboring of suspects, supplying general and indirect information on targets, providing funds in the form of donations to an organization or association known to back these organizations, or providing funds to a trusted intermediary which sends the money to the selected organization.

5. High security precautions: These individuals are keen to take all security measures available and distance themselves from anything which would prove that they are linked to religious movements or terrorist organizations. These individuals, in many cases, are equipped with the ability to disguise and deceive, especially because they maintain a distance from members of terrorist organizations and groups.

Several Roles

The roles that these individuals play are especially important to terrorist organizations, as they can contribute directly to their potential to implement terrorist attacks. The most important roles can be summarized as follows:

1. Financial assistance: Offering such assistance, for the most part, to terrorist organizations in order to strengthen their capabilities to continue their activities despite the military strikes they are subjected to. This aid is provided in several ways, often through a trusted intermediary between these individuals and terrorist organizations, or through donations which are transferred to entities that provide services to members of these organizations.

2. Logistic support: This includes shelter and assistance for fleeing and hiding, and is considered the most dangerous type of assistance for several reasons. This type of support is most often provided to terrorists who implement terrorist attacks and require a safe hiding place, the owners of which are trusted and unknown to security agencies because they are careful not to have direct links to religious movements or terrorist organizations. However, this type of support is most often only provided by one individual, thus making it difficult to provide to an entire group.

3. Providing information: In many cases, these individuals practice prominent roles in providing information to the terrorists who plan terror attacks regarding specific targets and appropriate timing.

4. Promoting ideas: Specifically, this type of support is considered the easiest, and often does not require many skills. It also, most often, does not bear any risks, as some individuals promote convictions of terrorist groups via social media.

5. Recruiting sympathizers: This type of support is particularly important because it can help terrorist organizations recruit new supporters. These new elements may become “lone wolves” which carry out terrorist attacks in specific areas, or secret groups which provide support to terrorists to implement this type of attack.

Overall, it appears that the terrorist attacks which have occurred in some countries in recent times have revealed the importance of roles played by some individuals which can either help or impede implementation of attacks. But what is more dangerous is that these roles appear to have persisted due to both their abilities to go unnoticed as well as efforts not to practice any activities which bring them under the nose of security agencies working to track down all those who may help implement terrorist organizations.

Keywords: TerrorismISISSecurity Studies