The Washington Post reports: The recent terrorist attacks in Paris have brought into sharper focus the rise of a new breed of jihadists, one that blurs the line between organized crime and Islamist extremism, using skills honed in lawbreaking in the service of violent radicalism.
The Islamic State is constructing an army of loyalists from Europe that includes an increasing number of street toughs and ex-cons as the nature of radicalization evolves in the era of its self-proclaimed caliphate. Rather than leave behind lives of crime, some adherents are using their illicit talents to finance recruiting rings and travel costs for foreign fighters even as their backgrounds give them potentially easier access to cash and weapons, posing a new kind of challenge to European authorities.
Before he became the notorious ringleader of last month’s terrorist attacks in Paris, for instance, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, 28, was linked to a den of radicalized thieves led by a man nicknamed “Santa Claus.”
The gang — including young men who would go on to fight in Syria and Iraq — robbed tourists and shoplifted, forming a petty-crime operation in the service of the Islamic State, authorities say. [Continue reading…]