TODAY -

Terrorism & Technology - I : Unchecked radicalization

Varun Kapoor *



Terrorism is one of the greatest and most potent threats to humanity of the present times. Terrorism is the unlawful use of violence or intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims. Due to a variety of reasons the quantum and damage caused by terrorism globally is increasing exponentially. It is estimated that the number of terrorist deaths increased NINE FOLD in fourteen years from 2000 to 2014. This is indeed alarming!

Some of the major reasons for this escalation are very easy to define and comprehend. One is the growing religious intolerance and conflicts. This is a major factor for friction in the global population and is a major cause of increasing terrorist activity.

This type of terrorism can be dubbed as religious terrorism. The second cause is the growing disparity in the “haves” and the “have not’s”, the world over. As the rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer - this applies both for individuals and nations - the fault lines grow deeper. The consequent sense of depravation fuels a deep seated hatred and jealousy and consequently terrorist activity rises. The ongoing Maoist and Naxal movement is India is an apt example of this type of terrorism.

A third reason is the growing expectations of the public at large. This includes political aspirations and ambitions. As this spiral out of proportion and control the feeling for formation of smaller nations or states (within nations) starts taking root.

“Everyone wants a piece of the pie” - as a result unlawful violence aka terrorist outfits mushroom and activities spurt. The statehood and nationhood struggles and consequent terrorism fuelled from such movements are examples of this. These reasons are the traditional reasons for the increase in terrorism the world over. However the most potent and pervasive reason for the increase in terrorist activity in today’s times is the utilization of the digital world by the terrorist organizations.

Why is that so? This will be discussed at length in this three part series. The digital world and the technology connected with it is proving a great asset to terrorist organizations to accomplish their most important and vital requirement - radicalization and subsequent recruitment. It is clear that a terrorist organization works with the help of indoctrinated, brainwashed and committed cadres. The more they have the better.

Some work as active foot soldiers and some as sleeper cells to be activated and utilized as and when the need arises. To build such a dedicated and motivated cadre is always a challenge for any terrorist organization. Till now they had very limited options to reach out to large chunks of humanity with their menacing message and turn them into virtual “killing machines”. But with the coming of the digital era - things have changed and become simplified for these shadowy but evil outfits.

Digital technology is helping terrorist organizations in spreading their hate message across the globe - unrestrained and impromptu. Some counterterrorism experts have referred to the internet as a “terrorist university”, a place where dedicated terrorists can be indoctrinated and then recruited and unleashed. The constant access to all sorts of propaganda material in a regular uninterrupted stream plays on vulnerable minds.

A terrorist is thus produced in the chats going on in numerous chat rooms - directed towards radicalization. The use of gruesome beheading videos produced by the terrorist ISIS (Islamic State) is a case in point - highlighting the rapid spread of hate material to radicalize youth and other individuals. Once radicalized, digital technology also aids in recruitment of the cadres.

Like the ISIS being a very tech savvy group and in its latest recruitment video they have edited in scenes from the popular game Grand Theft Auto V for effect. In its online video production offered new recruits the chance “to do things you do in games like in real life on the battlefield - like attack a military convoy or kill police officers”. This is indeed sometimes too powerful an offer to avoid for an already indoctrinated youth.

Internet also is a place where terrorists can learn new techniques and skills to make them more effective in their attack methodologies. Online Documents such as The Mujahedeen Poisons Handbook, are available freely which contains various “recipes” for homemade poisons and poisonous gases.

The Encyclopedia of Jihad, a six hundred page behemoth which is easily available online and contains chapters like “How to kill”, “Explosive Devices”, “Manufacturing Detonators” and “Assassination with Mines” - what knowledge can be gleaned from such treatises by prospective terrorists - is frightening to imagine.

The dreaded terrorist Dzhokhar Tsarnaey, who carried out the Boston Marathon Bombing in 2013, admitted to police that he and his brother learned to make the pressure cooker bomb they used in the attack after reading step by step instructions published in al-Qaeda’s online magazine, Inspire, in an article titled “Make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom”.

Thus terrorism is on the rise globally because this new and powerful tool in the hands of dreaded terrorist organizations - that is digital technology and the rapidly spreading internet. Security agencies world over are battling against such ruthless perpetrators and controlling this misuse of digital technology - but this battle appears to be long and arduous one that they have to win at all cost!


[Views expressed in the column are of the author himself]


* Varun Kapoor wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is IPS – ADG Narcotics & PRTS Indore (MP)
This article was webcasted on December 07, 2018.



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