Social Networks also known as high dimension communication networks (HDCNS) are playing key roles in promoting terrorism and radicalization of youths in East Africa, research data collected by SIS shows. For Example, a 21yr old from Nakuru, an agricultural town in Rift Valley prefecture of Kenya contacted a Honey-Pot claiming he had converted to Islam and that he was ready to wage jihad against Kenyans. The cohort was lured to explain his plan. He wanted the Somali terror group Harakat Al-Shabaab Mujahideen (HSM) to assist him conduct a terror attack targeting a prestigious learning institution in the prefecture. He had already conducted surveillance and reconnaissance on the target. He had cased it, and all that remained was availability of the weaponry which he had listed (mostly Kalashinkov Assault Rifles commonly referred to as AK47). The 21 year was arrested and the terror attack preempted. After debriefing, the boy confessed having been recruited and radicalized by a man they met on Facebook.
How are Youths Lured to Terrorism through HDCNS?
Government, schools, and parents’ concerns about peer pressure largely focuses on behavior, drugs, and sex. It’s until recently, the threat of terrorism became a concern. Parents have long been aware of the threat of peer pressure and the ill effects it can have on youngsters, and the typical response has been to keep a closer eye on the child’s peer group. Digital peer pressure” is today blamed for fueling drug, alcohol use in high school and college students (interestingly, Kenya Defense Forces KDF, raided a terrorist camp in Boni Forest in Lamu County, a frontier area. Drugs, pornographic material, condoms, and Drugs to treat sexually transmitted diseases were recovered. This confirms the high prevalence of irresponsible sexual and anti-social behavior in terrorist’s camps. This also confirms that social preferences are used by terrorists as metrics during radicalization and recruitment).
The same scourge is to blame for radicalization of students in both levels of learning. It is appropriately referred to as digital peer pressure. Social networks such as Myspace, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook have become so popular that nearly every teen holds accounts with at least one of these websites.
- Research doesn’t quantify the number of terror cells present in a social peer network per a certain number of youths, but confirms, terrorist’s cells are always conducting surveillance on the groups to determine the peer’s preferences.
- In Kenya, cohorts who were denied chances to join the army or the police are targets of radicalization and subsequent recruitment to become militants, particularly those from marginalized areas and from poor backgrounds.
- Cohorts with good education background, and are experts in certain subjects such as engineering, medicine, information technology, religion, and psychology but are jobless are great candidates for radicalization.
- A cell may request a person whose sentiments on HDCNS reflect the ideologies of the terror group, to privately communicate. This remains the most effective method of recruiting. However, it is until the cell is sure the cohort qualifies that it goes a step further to disclose the identity of the terror group, and this may take many months or years.
- Terrorists will conduct surveillance on these cohorts, determine their preferences, level of financial desperation, level of socio-psychological vulnerability, and ethno-political background. A terror cell establishes contact with the peer network through a comment or post. The cell may share tips on how to get jobs, references to job agencies, and most important, publish very lucrative and urgent job opportunities (whose requirements reflect of the academic and experience background of the potential recruit). The desperate cohort finds these opportunities as perfect for him for they match his qualifications and credentials thus makes him falls for it hook, line, and sinker. In such cases, this becomes forced recruitment.
It is apparent, parents, churches, schools, and government must focus on helping their children from being targeted for recruitment by extremists. Limiting use of social media by encouraging youths to participate in sports, physical academic clinics, attending seminars sponsored by churches and local administration, economic activities, and other exciting/engaging activities that will prevent idleness and at the same time encourage entrepreneurship/economic empowerment.