UK jihadists are richer, better educated and have fewer criminal convictions than those from other European countries, according to new research.
The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) says that many British jihadists have stayed in school until at least the age of 18, with some even having university degrees. The majority had also had previous involvement in groups focussing on Middle East issues, including pro-Palestine groups.
The Times reports that the group studied 525 jihadists who have travelled from the West to fight in Syria and Iraq, using information from social media and interviews.
Shiraz Maher, senior fellow at ICSR, said: “The UK jihadists tend to be better educated, more affluent and have more social mobility compared to their counterparts in Europe.”
The report adds that British jihadists tend to be from South Asian backgrounds, while those from European nations are more likely to be of North African extraction.
In contrast to the relatively high levels of achievement among British jihadists, Germany’s intelligence services found that just two percent had a university education, while 20 percent were registered unemployed. Also, 117 had criminal convictions, mostly for drugs offences and violence.
The ICSR also found that clusters of men from the same UK cities tend to join the same jihadist cells abroad, indicating that their affiliate has more to do with having particular contacts rather than ideological differences.
Several UK towns and cities have been the focus for jihadist recruitment, with disproportionately high numbers coming from London, Brighton, Manchester, Glasgow, Cardiff, Coventry and Crawley.
Researchers found that most fighters from London were joining Nusra or the smaller Rayat al-Tahweed group, rather than the self-proclaimed Islamic State.
Counter-terrorism researchers believe that at least 24 British fighters have now died in Syria and Iraq, with nine being killed by Assad’s forces, six fighting other rebel groups and four in US-led air strikes.