Redirected radicals: understanding the risk of altered targeting trajectories among ISIL's aspiring foreign fighters
Gordon, John Tully
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Since the formation of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and its so-called Caliphate, the terrorist organization has demonstrated its capability and willingness to project force beyond its immediate area of operations in the Middle East, extending to Western countries. Rather than solely dispatching trained foreign fighters, in the United States, ISIL's strategy has involved homegrown violent extremists (HVEs) with a limited range of connectivity to the group. This thesis explores the threat posed by a subgroup of HVEs identified as redirected radicals, aspiring foreign fighters who, when prevented by counterterrorism actions from traveling overseas, decided instead to alter their targeting trajectory and commit violence in their home countries. Through an extensive comparative case study analysis of recent ISIL-related violent incidents and plots in the United States, Canada, and Australia, common trends identified the prevalence of redirected radicals. This thesis found that policy responses to this phenomenon differed significantly across these three nations, using an array of legal authorities including undercover investigations, passport revocation, and preventative detention with varying degrees of effectiveness. Ultimately, this thesis determined that investigations involving potential redirected radicals offer unique opportunities for counterterrorism authorities to effectively decrease the likelihood of a domestic attack.
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