JAN Trust is a multi-award winning charity empowering and providing leadership for women in order to create positive and active citizens of society

WebGuardians

Barcelona and the evolution of terrorism: how do we stop a terror attack when vehicles are used?

The Barcelona terrorist attack was horrifying. It left 13 dead and over 100 people injured. The weapon of choice? A van.

A ‘vehicle-ramming attack’ is one of the stealthiest forms of terror attacks due to the difficulty of its prevention. Those who are planning to carry out an attack using this militant tactic do not require the resources or skills needed to create a bomb. All that is needed is a driving licence, and access to a car.
This year alone there have been ten vehicle-ramming attacks globally. In the UK there have been three terror attacks that have involved the use of a vehicle: the Westminster, London Bridge, and Finsbury Park attack. It is an unsophisticated tactic compared to the creation of bombs. These vehicle attacks are also linked to the rise of home-grown terrorists, as access to a vehicle is easier if you are a citizen of the nation. The accessibility of gaining a vehicle has meant that it has appealed to ISIS recruiters. In September 2014, ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani issued a call to kill non-believers using any resources available: “[S]ingle out the disbelieving American, Frenchman, or any of his allies,” he said. “Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car.” BBC Inside Out reporters went undercover as young British Muslims interested in carrying out an attack, and were directed to an online terrorist manual on the dark web by recruiters, which specifically explained how to carry out an attack using a vehicle. This shows the indiscriminate nature to which these militant tactics are being encouraged. Young people can easily be led astray by recruiters through social media and communication networks who glorify martyrdom, goading new recruits with the chance of achieving paradise in the after-life.

Governments have attempted to prevent further attacks through the use of vehicles. Security bollards have been added to areas, specifically at festivals and large gatherings, such as most recently, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Notting Hill Carnival. These are probably the most practicable prevention for crowded areas. Barriers have been erected on popular bridges in central London, protecting pedestrians from any cars that could drive onto the pavement in an attempt to target civilians.

The recent ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, brought together a plethora of far-right groups, neo-Nazis and racists, as well as many counter protestors. As tensions escalated, a neo-Nazi James Alex Fields drove his car at full speed into a group of counter protestors, killing 32 year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19. This is a tragic reminder that the threat of terrorism and van attacks come from both Islamist and far-right extremists.
There are plans in the UK in place to make British drivers face tougher vehicle hire checks by cross-checking against a terror watch list. Westminster attacker Khalid Masood had hired a 4x4, whilst Khuram Butt, the leader of the London Bridge attack, had hired a large white van. The problem with this is that hiring a vehicle garners very little suspicion. Some suggest making cities car-free in order to extinguish the threat of vehicles as a weapon altogether. However these tactics can only do so much to help protect citizens.

This evolution of terrorist attacks has further shown the importance of our award winning Web Guardians™ programme. One of the only ways to prevent potential terror attacks like vehicle-ramming attacks is to find out the root cause of radicalisation. Social media companies need to take an active role in weeding out extremist content, as videos, posts and other forms of propaganda can quickly go viral, and can have a lot of influence. Communication through encrypted networks can be extremely difficult to infiltrate.

With our highly acclaimed Web Guardians™ programme, we encourage, educate and empower mothers to prevent their loved ones from becoming victims to the dangers of online extremism.

Unfortunately there is no way to make areas completely safe from this modern form of terrorism. Such attacks have created a lot of fear in society, with people fearing for their safety and increasing xenophobic feelings towards others. People should not have to adapt their lives in order to avoid the threat of terrorism, and minorities should not take the brunt of people’s fears. We at JAN Trust can only hope that preventative measures are put in place, and that counter-extremism programmes like our Web Guardians™ programme find sustainable support in order to help prevent the roots of radicalisation taking place.

JAN Trust featured in Arab News

In an article which explored the importance of online radicalisation in causing violent extremism and terror attacks, our award winning Web Guardians™ course was referenced. It highlights how radicalisation has changed, where today individuals are radicalised alone, often seeking out extremist material and 'self-radicalising' rather than being groomed within a group.

They offer our work here at JAN Trust as part of the solution, helping to educate mothers on how to protect their children from the dangers of online extremism.

 

Read the article here.

JT on BBC SML

On the 9th of July, BBC Sunday Morning Live featured our CEO Sajda Mughal and our Web Guardians™ programme. Sajda spoke about her experience of the 7/7 bombings, marking the 12 year anniversary. She also spoke about her pioneering Web Guardians™ programme. The piece also featured some women and mothers who had taken part in our Web Guardians™ programme and they described how the programme had made a difference in them protecting their children from being radicalised online.

To view the piece, click here.

Vulnerable Minds: How Daesh is Recruiting Iraqi Children and Targeting British Teenagers

As Iraqi forces’ liberation of Mosul continues, attention is increasingly focusing on what Daesh will do next.
 
It’s feared their leaders, members and sympathisers will ramp up their sinister efforts to target our young people here in Europe, calling for so-called ‘lone wolf’ attacks on home soil, prompting calls for us all to remain vigilant when it comes to protecting our children online.
 
One of Daesh’s most horrifying future strategies is the indoctrination and training of a new generation of fighters. As Daesh’s failed ‘caliphate’ collapses, hoards of fighters have been deserting the ranks – if they haven’t already been killed in combat or suicide attacks. Now, Daesh is preying on the most vulnerable and malleable minds: those of Iraqi and Syrian children.
 
The Independent recently published letters from young radicalised recruits to their parents, discovered at abandoned Daesh hideouts in eastern Mosul. They make for heart-wrenching reading.
 
One, written by Iraqi schoolboy Alaa Abd al-Akeedi, says: “My dear family, please forgive me. Don't be sad and don't wear the black clothes [of mourning]. I asked to get married and you did not marry me off. So, by God, I will marry the 72 virgins in paradise.” He was killed by his suicide vest shortly after. It’s thought he was just 16 years old.
 
The news agency Reuters has managed to gain access to relatives of the teenagers who left the notes.
 
Family members tell a story of innocence; of vulnerable, fragile minds being targeted and then indoctrinated. A man reveals that his teenage relative, who was recruited by Daesh and killed in a suicide attack, had been overweight and insecure and joined the jihadists after his father's death. He told Reuters: “His mind was fragile and they took advantage of that, promising him virgins and lecturing him about being a good Muslim. If someone had tempted him with drugs and alcohol, he probably would have done that instead.”
 
It is this last statement that hits home. As parents, we all understand the worry that our children will hang out in the ‘wrong crowd’ and get into drugs. Young minds are open to influence and eager to try new things – to ‘grow up’. It can be as easy as that.
 
In Iraq and Syria, young people may not be exposed to violence in the same format that our children are in the UK. Despite our efforts to shelter or protect them, our kids consume film, TV, online and video game violence to a point of such desensitisation that it is normalised. They witness the violence occurring in places like Syria and Iraq through their screens.
 
Syrian and Iraqi children on the other hand are directly witnessing violence on the streets in the most gruesome and horrific ways. Some have even been exposed to it under the regime of Daesh as the terrorist group took control of their neighbourhoods, yet even they are vulnerable to radicalisation.
 
Violence is glamourised in action films and video games in the virtual world British children often live in. The brutal realities of extreme violence are all too real for many Iraqi and Syrian children.
 
Some may be more susceptible to radicalisation than others. But all are vulnerable.
 
Phone apps and the Internet make it simple for a direct line to be formed between a Daesh militant in Iraq and our children here in the UK. Daesh knows that our young people are excited by video game violence, by the idea of handling a rifle and fighting an enemy.
 
Considering all of this, we must educate ourselves about the dangers and threats are children face and ensure lines of communication are open between us as parents and our children to protect them and prevent radicalisation.
 
At JAN Trust, we aim to help mothers who fear for their children’s safety online with our Web Guardians© project.
 
Many families have been destroyed by Daesh. JAN Trust is helping in the struggle against home-grown radicalisation so that more families do not have to suffer this same fate.
 
If you are interested in finding out more about Web Guardians© go to http://jantrust.org/projects/web-guardians
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