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Al Qaeda-Affiliated and 'Homegrown' Jihadism in the UK: 1999-2010


This report is an important source of empirical data on the characteristics and trends within the British Jihadi movement since the late 1990s (defined as ‘movements and individuals that extol violent jihad’). It is part of a larger project which looks at 1,950 Western Jihadist across a number of countries. This report is based on 326 UK individuals. The data set is based predominantly on open-source material, supplemented by private interviews. Basic information on individuals was coded by type of information: age, gender and civil status, citizenship and immigration status, prior police records or convictions, education, profession, ethnicity, race, original religion, chronology of radicalisation, trips abroad, encounters and relationships with other radicals. Klausen then ran a network analysis on these groups to assess the nature and extent of relationships between individuals within these cells.

The report is primarily a network analysis, seeking to understand the relationships between individuals that have made up the British Jihadi movement. It highlights the ‘incestuous’ nature of personal relationship between cells and individuals: 80% knew someone who knew someone in another plot.  Much activity centred around what Klausen refers to as ‘the four shiekhs’ (Abu Qatada, Abu Doha, Abu Hamza and Omar Bakri). Breaking the influence of these four individuals was crucial. The report shows that serious, large scale conspiracies in the UK have almost always been linked to at least one individual with some international training or involve direct external management. This suggests the continued importance of training and logistical support from al Qaeda affiliated groups in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and increasingly East Africa, which Klausen argues undermines Marc Sageman’s (2009) theory of ‘a leaderless Jihad’.  Based on the data, the paper usefully sketches out the evolution of home-grown Jihadism in the UK over the last decade. In phase 1 (1990s-2003) the Jihadists were exiles in the UK, and part of the London based network of international Jihadis, mainly linked to the ‘four sheikhs’ mentioned above. Their actions, for the most part, were directed outside the country. In the second phase, between 2004-06, a ‘homegrown’ network of native-born Britons willing to take action at home emerged. It was logistically dependent upon camps in Pakistan and the border territories run by al Qaeda-affiliated networks. The influence of the four sheikhs declined as counter-terrorism operations increased. In the third phase (2007-08), al Qaeda increasingly assumed the direction of British-based Jihadist cells. The final phase, it is argued, began in 2009, has seen ‘professionalisation’ and ‘diffusion’. Terrorist individuals and cells have distanced themselves from the local radical milleu, as al Qaeda and affiliated groups prefer to recruit and handpicked individuals for operations that now mainly target the US.

Although the empirical data is a very valuable source for other researchers, there are some concerns. The sample is not made up only of convicted terrorists, but includes individuals awaiting trail, individuals that were arrested and acquitted or released without charge, and individuals currently on a control order. Moreover, it also includes non-British citizens who may have acted in conjunction with British based conspiracies. These are to be borne in mind when considering the conclusions reached.

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