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Terrorists Ramping Up Recruitment and Propaganda Efforts

The Islamic State’s so-called caliphate may be dismantled, but the terror group’s activities continue. On 28 October, Europol and the Spanish National Police arrested three suspects linked to a terrorist cell actively recruiting and indoctrinating young people, according to a Europol press release. Authorities believe the network was created to carry out ISIS-supported jihadist terrorism.

The cell, which had upward of 10,000 social media followers across a variety of accounts, disseminated a large amount of jihadist propaganda, including violent visuals showing minors involved in ISIS combat that promoted them as role models.

“...during planned meetings, the youngest members received physical training and mental conditioning to carry out jihadist terrorism," according to Europol. "The terrorist cell enabled the regular practice of contact sports and provided handbooks on the use and handling of weapons such as knives and firearms.”

The uncertainty and confusion caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is being widely exploited by terror groups, according to a new international study published in the journal Global Security: Health, Science, and Policy.

“Despite the overriding media attention to the COVID-19 pandemic and its near-total eclipse of security issues, the terrorism milieu has hardly taken a pause from its deadly pursuits or suspended the execution of its plans,” said Arie Kruglanski, lead author of the report and a professor of psychology at the University of Maryland.

The amount of time spent online due to COVID-19 lockdowns and similar social distancing measures has increased worldwide concerns about radicalization and the spread of extremist views.

“We’ve known for years that it can be all too easy for people to become radicalized without even leaving home," according to a new report, Building Resilience & Confronting Risk in the COVID-19 Era: A Parents & Caregivers Guide to Online Radicalization. The proliferation of extremist spaces and content online has created new and powerful avenues for radicalization, especially for young people.”

In the November 2020 issue of Security Management, Mark Tarallo digs deeper into this issue, including research into what counter-narratives are proven to work against extremist indoctrination—and which ones backfire.