82 Per Cent of Terrorist Prisoners in Europe Are Islamic Jihadists: Report

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Radical Islamic jihadists make up 82 per cent of the prisoners jailed for terrorist offences across ten European countries, with more terrorists in prison than at any time over the past twenty years, a report has found.

The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR), a King’s College London think tank, found that the overwhelming majority of the 1,405 terrorists imprisoned in Europe were radical Islamists. The country with the highest amount of imprisoned terrorists is France, which has 549 inmates, compared to 329 in Spain, 292 in Germany, 238 in Britain, and 136 in Belgium.

The report warned, however, that when taking into consideration those prisoners that are being “monitored because of their radicalisation” the number jumps to 3,027. The ICSR noted that the majority of those monitored, 54 per cent, entered the prison system as “regular criminals” and were radicalised within the system.

“For some terrorists, prison was a place for radicalisation and recruitment, in which inmates with no previous involvement in politically motivated violence could be exposed to extremist ideas – often at particularly vulnerable points in their lives,” the report said.

“Prison also served operational purposes: it was a place in which terrorists formed networks, established hierarchies, developed strategies, and plotted attacks. It is curious, therefore, that researchers and policymakers concerned with radicalisation and countering radicalisation have shown comparatively little interest in the issue of prisons,” the ICSR added.

The think tank said that the figures represented the highest number of imprisoned terrorists in Europe in the past twenty years, with countries experiencing rapid growth in the number of terrorist offences.

The inmate population in France, for example, jumped by over five hundred per cent since 2014 when the country only had 90 jihadi terrorists imprisoned. Over the same time period, the terrorist offender population of Britain doubled.

Compared to the 82 per cent of jihadist offenders in the prison system, the report found that just seven per cent of terrorist offenders were deemed to be ‘far-right’.

The report also highlighted the problem of ISIS fighter “returnees” coming back to Europe after fighting in Syria and Iraq, saying: “While many returnees across Europe are disillusioned and disappointed with either Islamic State as an organisation or the jihadist movement more broadly, Islamic State’s religious police is said to have continued their ‘work’ within prison walls.”

There is also a growing problem of female jihadis, with many so-called ISIS brides returning to Europe after joining the Islamic State, such as the case of Shamima Begum, who earlier this month, was granted the ability to return to the United Kingdom by a court to appeal the government’s decision to revoke her citizenship.

“Whereas a decade ago it was almost unheard of for women to be protagonists in the jihadist scene – and those involved were generally seen as ‘victims’ of their radical husbands’ wills – in recent years Europe has witnessed female propagandists, recruiters, travellers to Islamic State territory, and attack planners,” the ICSR said.

“This change was heralded with the 2016 Notre‐Dame bomb plot in Paris, which involved a three‐woman cell that attempted to explode a car, filled with gas canisters, near the cathedral. Their attempt failed and the women were arrested and convicted for the attack. Three further all‐female plots in the UK further underlined the potential for women to be involved in violent extremism,” the report noted.

Follow Kurt on Twitter at @KurtZindulka

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