Radicalism in Yemen, al-Qaida, and Abdulmutallab

Attempted Nigerian terrorist Abdulmutallab told authorities he was the first of many al-Qaida linked terrorists in training in Yemen. The group al-Qaida in the Arabian Penninsula, comprised of Yemeni and Saudi operatives, claims the attack and cites recent US-backed airstrikes on Yemen as their motivation.

A closer look into Yemen reveals a recent increase in US military aid, as well a significant increases in refugees, extremists, and Saudi Arabian al-Qaida operatives, the result of President Ali Abdulaah Saleh’s inability to prevent members from training and organizing.

Major Hasan, perpetrator of this year’s earlier shooting at Fort Hood, TX, also had contact with a Yemeni cleric.

Who is Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab?

23-year old Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to bomb a Northwest Airlines Flight en route from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day.

Abdulmutallab was educated at an international British school in Lagos as a youth, and received a degree in engineering and business finance from University College London from 2005-08. His father was a banker and government official in Nigeria.

Abdulmutallab’s father reported him to authorities after he showed interest in radical Islam, cut ties with his family and disappeared. His recent past includes two trips to Yemen and moves to both Egypt and Dubai.

His 2005 posts to the Islamic Forum (http://www.gawaher.com) reveal a lonely young man desperate for a better social life, love life, success on standardized tests, someone to “consult” with, and respite from depression. “I have no one to speak to. No one to support me, no one to consult, and I feel depressed and lonely. I do not know what to do. And then I think this loneliness leads me to other problems.” He was also conflicted about eating meat not slaughtered by Muslims with his parents, and experienced difficulty in finding a balance between working to understand the Koran, and relaxing without becoming too listless.

He also wrote about a 2005 trip to Yemen to study Arabic, where he seemed to be having a happy experience. He described how many American and British people were in Sanaa, and excitement over the availability of Pizza Hut and KFC.

Abdulmutallab had 287 Facebook friends; pictures posted to his profile show him smiling with friends.

A fellow student of his at University College London said he showed no signs of radicalization, but described him as quiet and reserved, and frequently prayed.

Attack on flight from Dutch airport raises security questions

Dutch coverage of the December 25 attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to set off an explosion on the Northwest Air flight from Amsterdam to Detroit has centered largely on security issues. As Dutch News reports, national papers devote much attention to reconstructing what happened on board flight 253, the actions of the passenger who overpowered the alleged terrorist, and the implications regarding security screening at Schipol airport.

Articles in Elsevier and Telegraaf question the level of experience among security employees at Schipol, also questioning whether some security personnel may have had “sympathy for Muslim terrorists”, citing a source who claims there was “rejoicing among Muslim security workers” during the attacks of September 11 2001. The security issue continues to frame Dutch discussion of the attack, and the Netherlands has announced plans to use full body scans for flights bound for the United States.

An overview of religion and economics in Nigeria

Whether attempted Northwest Airlines bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was radicalized in Nigeria where he was raised, or the UK where he attended university, is so far unclear. This NPR interview with West Africa corespondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton discusses Christianity, Islam, US-Nigeria relations, and radicalism in Nigeria, exploring the environment Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was brought up amidst.

Did time in London radicalize Abdulmutallab?

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab spent 2005-08 living in a 3-bedroom apartment in London’s West End as an engineering and business finance student at University College London. Experts wonder whether those years, characterized by anger over the Iraq War and the 2005 London subway/bus bombing, could have played a role in radicalizing Abdulmutallab.

While London is an exciting city for Muslims from other countries with its higher education options, jobs, and distance from family home, it is also described by Mamoun Fandy, International Institute for Strategic Studies as “a mecca of jihad.” The years Abdulmutallab spent there saw a spike in the spread of radical Islamic ideas.

Today, Muslims still have access to many different interpretations of Islam in London, including “intense Koranic views.”

“I’ve felt for a long time that if radical Sharia law comes to the rest of the world it will start on the streets of London,” says a Pakistani expert on militant Islam. “Too many clerics today, even moderate ones, don’t talk on Muslim life in a secular state. Young Muslims are smart, raised as British citizens. If they come from abroad, many have great hope and are often disillusioned. They live between worlds, in the cracks. When they go home to their families they are often more radical than their friends.”

“There remains in London a problem of assimilation for outsiders. The society is closed. The city is open, but the people are not,” Fandy said.

At this point in the investigation, his background and path to violent jihad is still unclear. One source claims he was recruited to militant Islam while living in London. Another claims he was already espousing radical views while still in boarding school in West Africa, before he ever went to college. But the US is now questioning whether Britain is posing a major threat to national security.