Study of French Jihadists Finds No Real 'Lone Wolves' in Homegrown Terror Wave
A new study of 137 French terrorists found that the jihadists shared "several common denominators including a lower level of education, poorer integration into the labor market, higher levels of criminal activity, and stronger ties to the Maghreb and to sub-Saharan Africa than the average French citizen."
The report from the Institut français des relations internationales (Ifri), or French Institute for International Relations, also catalogued recruitment trends influenced by group dynamics, the internet, and prisons.
The study also sounded the alarm about recidivism as 60 people convicted of terrorism offenses in France are scheduled to be released from prison within the next two years.
Terrorists behind the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, the Hyper Cacher supermarket, and attacks on police officers shared profile characteristics of being born in France to immigrant families, having a "chaotic educational trajectory," and significant prior criminal offenses.
About 1,300 French citizens have traveled to ISIS territory, with even more arrested en route. By the end of February 2018, 323 who spent time in Iraq-Syria had returned to France, including 68 minors. Much of the information about terrorists in the study was gleaned from court proceedings of those who faced terrorism charges between 2004 and 2017; most of these terrorists were unknown to the general public.
The study looks at 131 men and six women, though women have comprised about a third of the group leaving France for Syria. The average age among these jihadists at the time of their offenses was 26.
Many of the terrorists came from underprivileged regions of France. Of the 68 for whom educational information was available, 32 had no high school degree. One was an engineer, though, and one was a doctor of particle physics.
Only one of the terrorists had a very high income, which he raked in as a result of selling drugs.
Of the 126 terrorists whose criminal record could be accessed by the researchers, 61 had no prior convictions or tangles with police. Fifteen had been reported to the police, but didn't have any convictions on their record.
Even though many of the well-known terrorists in France have spent time in prison, only four of the 96 jihadists for whom sentencing information was available spent more than two years behind bars.
Only 37 percent of the 59 jihadist for whom financing data was available got their funds from a jihadist support network. Twenty-seven percent tapped into their personal savings to finance terrorism, 15 percent used funds from their families and 21 percent used illicit funds raised through crime.
"In all cases, the amounts in question were modest, ranging from several hundred to several thousand euros," noted the report. "We are dealing here with a 'low-cost' jihadism, which does not require the setting up of complex financial circuits."