The New Face of Terrorism

Mokhtar Belmokhtar graffiti
Photo: thierry ehrmann/Wikimedia Commons.

The denial that seems to have characterized most of American and European leaders’ assessment of the status of al Qaeda over the last three years seems to be over. Last week two of America’s top intelligence officials openly stated before Congress that the group is morphing, franchising and expanding its reach globally. Similarly, John Sawers, the head of MI6, recently told the British Parliament that “We are having to deal with al Qaeda emerging and multiplying in a whole new range of countries. There is no doubt at all that the threat is rising.”

These assessments are completely different from the tunes heard just a year ago on both sides of the Atlantic. The narrative touting al Qaeda’s demise took shape in Western capitals in early 2011. The first months of the so-called Arab Spring made Western observers swoon with hope at the sight of thousands of demonstrators throughout the Arab world fighting for democracy and adopting none of al Qaeda’s ideas and slogans. Al Qaeda’s message, they argued, had been defeated and the democracies that would rise from the ashes of the authoritarian regimes of Mubarak, Ben Ali, and Ghaddafi would push Arabs and Muslims further away from it.

The Evolution of Jihadism in Italy: Rise in Homegrown Radicals

'Jihad' graffiti
‘Jihad’ graffiti. Photo: laughing spinning dancing/flickr.

Jihadist terrorism in Italy has recently undergone significant demographic and operational changes. The first generation of foreign-born militants with ties to various jihadist groups outside Europe is still active in Italy, albeit with less intensity than in the past. During the last few years, however, Italian authorities have increasingly noticed a shift toward forms of homegrown radicalization similar to that experienced in other Western European countries. Two recent incidents highlighted this trend: the conviction of a young man from Brescia who, without any connection to established jihadist groups, formed an

online network of jihadist enthusiasts; and a Genoa-born convert to Islam who was killed in Syria. These two incidents marked some of the first cases of homegrown jihadist radicalization in Italy.[1]

This article looks at the first generation of jihadists in Italy, and then shows how the jihadist scene in Italy has progressively changed with the formation of a new generation of homegrown radicals. It finds that although the recent instances of homegrown jihadist radicalization are worrisome, it still remains a small phenomenon in Italy compared to some other European countries.