Jihadist terrorism: the suicide bomber

(To Renato Scarfi)

Yet another murder of civilians inside the Nice cathedral confirmed the worst expectations of those who had never deluded themselves that the territorial defeat of the Islamic State had put an end to violence jihadi.

After the killing of Samuel Paty, the French high school professor beheaded in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine (Yvelines), near Paris, the attention of the French media (in these days absorbed by the explosion of infections from Covid-19 and the closures imposed to limit its spread) focused on the new attack jihadi of Nice, which caused three deaths and several injuries. An attack that took place a few days after the hard verbal clash between Macron and Erdoğan, whose latest statements against France have sparked violent protests in some countries in the Middle and Far East.

In the first case, the bomber was an eighteen year old Chechen, born in Moscow, who killed the professor because he was deemed "guilty" of showing the caricatures of Muhammad in class (the trial for the Charlie Hebdo massacre had just begun). In the case of Nice it is a XNUMX-year-old Tunisian who, to the cry Allahu Akbar, attacked civilians who were inside the Cathedral.

From the first news reported by the media, it seems that the young Tunisian arrived in France passing through Lampedusa a few days ago, through the channels of illegal immigration. Therefore, the hypothesis that the young man did everything by himself or that he radicalized in the last few days, but that he was helped by some logistic network of supporters and that he arrived in Europe with a precise plan in mind, seems at least distant. criminal.

All this raises questions. Why does a young man choose to kill innocent strangers, often with the prospect of being killed or even trying to die during the attack?

To try to explain it, I would like to borrow and paraphrase the Manzoni question of a circumspect Don Abbondio, who was wondering about Carneade: the terrorist, who is he?

To date we can say that, from a recruitment based on poverty and ignorance, propaganda jihadi it is now able to attract even middle-class individuals, who have no economic problems and are in possession of a qualification, sometimes high.

The latest studies have also shown that there is no longer a direct link between terrorism and income (read poverty) or schooling, but that there is a close link with exclusion or social degradation, which favor the cancellation of the sense of belonging of individuals. exposed to these problems, increasing their distance from the rest of society and facilitating their political and religious extremization. They, rightly or wrongly, feel discriminated against, marginalized and despised by the society in which they live. They are therefore particularly exposed to loneliness, fragility, liquefaction.

In this context, religion, preferably a rigorist interpretation, is perceived as a way to social redemption, to get out of mediocrity, making them feel appreciated and valued. Through the fanatical interpretation of religion they have the feeling that they can return to exist. Hence, from condemned they are transfigured into judges of a society they consider impious and heretical, from individuals who inspire contempt they become characters that inspire fear, from complete strangers they become the protagonists of which TV and newspapers speak.

Furthermore, when the experience of prison occurs in their personal history, perhaps for petty crime, this often becomes a place of conversion and further indoctrination, where those who are convicted of terrorist acts take on an aura of glory in their eyes.

And here it is necessary to reflect on the methods of persuasion employed by recruiters. Internet, television, SOCIAL MEDIA, have proved to be very effective tools for attracting new individuals into orbit jihadi. Salafi ideology has, in fact, perfectly adapted to the virtual world and is now counting on the preaching of Jihad online and as the main vector of proselytism for its worldwide diffusion. Confirming the extreme adaptability of this jihadism 3.0 I remember that on November 22, 2018, Europol had terrorist propaganda material nested in 9 platforms, some of which are quite well known, blocked. In total they contained more than 26.000 propaganda documents jihadist, in the form of videos or publications.

Once engaged, the subject is introduced into a friendly environment that makes him feel safe, in order to cancel the normal psychological resistances and annihilate his capacity for critical thinking, so as to make him a docile, reliable and effective tool in the hands of the leaders terrorists. The path of indoctrination to violence is full of Koranic precepts, to be used as theological support, and the aspiring homicide-suicide is led, through so many imperceptible and unconscious changes, to vary his own conduct without being able to perceive external constraints or constraints . With this hidden persuasion, which manages to transform apparently normal people into particularly violent subjects, these individuals reach their autonomy in absolute dependence.

For recruiters, the suicide bomber is an altogether low-cost, low-tech, low-risk weapon, readily usable, needs relatively little training, and has a devastating psychological impact on the "target" society. A weapon which, as a result of profound extreme religious convictions, fanaticism and intense anger, has made obsolete all the protection techniques that were based on the natural instinct of self-preservation of the attacker, as this does not flee in the face of death but, indeed , he seeks it to affirm his purity.

But what triggers so much hatred in the suicide bombers that it leads them to plan / wish for their death in the attack? Unfortunately, judging by the various analyzes that are proposed each time, there is no theory that fully explains the causes of this behavior. Not only that, according to this fanatic view, if the attackers survive in a suicide attack, paradoxically it is considered a failure.

On the basis of investigations carried out on suicide bombers, it has been discovered that these are individuals capable of spending months and even entire years as "sleepers", who behave in an unsuspected way and even when they come into contact with the "enemy" society, they manage to do not remain in the least infected or psychologically modified. The lack of empathy and desensitization reach their maximum extent in these cases. While taking possession of the tools and technology of the "enemy", these subjects are in fact able to "... remain absolutely impervious to any kind of influence, preparing their spirit with great strength and firmness for the moment of the supreme sacrifice ..."1. At the moment of action they then demonstrate an absolute firmness of character and extraordinary determination. Furthermore, during the interrogations of those who survived, they coldly discussed the details of the attack and showed that they were motivated by deep religious beliefs, according to which they were doing the right thing. And this is basically the difference with other terrorists. To the jihadi who is preparing to carry out the attack, in addition to the peculiar aspects of the terrorist's psychology, is in fact required to also have deep religious convictions, fanaticism and intense anger.

The family environment also plays an important role in cultivating this feeling. Without a community that accepts and supports it, in fact, the practice of murder-suicide does not take root.

Against these conditioning, no logical reasoning is more able to break through the mind of the suicidal aspirant. In essence, in the minds of these young people who have given up thinking for themselves there is a profound irrationality to which religious fanaticism has given an order and a "coherent" structure.

As Robespierre said: Of all the passions that can propel the will of man, there is none more incompatible with reason and freedom than religious fanaticism.

All this poses new challenges to those who have to fight the phenomenon jihadi. Suicide terrorists not only seek personal sacrifice but are also extremely flexible. Wherever they find a strong contrast on the part of the Authorities, they elaborate new strategies, in order to turn around the problem and still bring destruction and death. If, for example, it is possible to prevent the access of the material necessary for the attacks, the terrorist uses material of common use, which cannot be traced such as, for example, a truck, a van, a knife, an ax, and so on. A continuous work of adaptation to “external” conditions.

And the answer must, therefore, be equally flexible while trying, at the same time, to anticipate the moves of the terrorists. A difficult and delicate job that theintelligence, the Police Forces and the military departments carry on in silence and with sacrifice but which, at times, is unfortunately not sufficiently appreciated by some citizens, too caught up in completely misleading political considerations.

A 360-degree commitment that chorally involves all the best forces of the countries concerned, according to their skills and peculiarities. As pointed out by the United Nations Security Council, in fact, "... terrorism will not be defeated by military force, law enforcement measures, and intelligence operations alone ..."2. All the tools available to counter this subtle and masked threat must, therefore, be used in synergy, providing for an intense activity of gathering and analyzing information, effective prevention activities (passive measures) and operational interventions (active measures) , which make it possible to identify any radicalized elements and block their murderous initiatives.

The fight against terrorist activity is an absolute priority, as it is a highly destabilizing composite threat, which sees an increasing use of readily available means and unsophisticated planning.

La minaccia jihadi it will not disappear just because we want it. Indeed, as already mentioned, over time the main organizations have developed a virtual dimension through which they continue to take hold on subjects permeable to the message jihadi, including minors, by disseminating videos and propaganda texts translated (or subtitled) into the various “target” languages, promoting radicalization processes, favoring telematic contacts between affiliates and encouraging the “do it yourself” planning of violent actions. In this way the range of harmful subjects has expanded and nebulized, adding to radicalized individuals with criminal backgrounds, organized in groups, even single elements inserted in the path of mobilization through the internet, which has amplified their factors of socio-psychological distress, adding a significant ideological-religious push. Furthermore, the ever wider activation of isolated elements has added difficulties in the prevention work, given that these individuals are difficult to trace and, those who are reported, can be "followed" with great expenditure of economic and human resources.

The fanatical violence of religious inspiration has unleashed a war that is now so widespread, pervasive and delocalized that it can only be resolved with sincere international collaboration, free from small-scale utilitarian calculations, which sees the Police Forces and military departments deployed in defense of our system of values ​​and of our secularism.

As Oriana Fallaci wrote, “… If we do not oppose ourselves, if we do not defend ourselves, if we do not fight, Jihad will win. And it will destroy the world what good or bad we managed to to build, the change, the improve, to make a little more intelligent that is less bigoted or even not bigoted... "3.

To deepen the question of the causes, motivations and actions to counter the jihadist phenomenon, by the same author "Jihadist terrorism", Europa Edizioni, 2019. Foreword by gen. ca Roberto Bernardini, former commander of the Italian Army's Land Operational Forces

1 Marco Cannavicci, The psychology of the kamikaze, on "Police and democracy" n. 78, March 2003, p. 28

2 S / RES / 2178 (2014) of 24 September 2014, p. 2.

3 Oriana Fallaci, Anger and pride, BUR Rizzoli, 2014

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