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December 2, 2004 by AK

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Via Cella’s Reviews: Understanding Terror Networks by Marc Sageman.

I started gathering terrorist biographies from various sources, mostly from the records of trials. The trial that took place in New York in 2001 in connection with the 1998 embassy bombing, for instance, was 72 days long and had a wealth of information, 9,000 pages of it. I wanted to collect this information to test the conventional wisdom about terrorism. With some 400 biographies, all in a matrix, I began social-network analysis of this group. […]

…[T]hree quarters of my sample came from the upper or middle class. The vast majority—90 percent—came from caring, intact families. Sixty-three percent had gone to college, as compared with the 5-6 percent that’s usual for the third world. These are the best and brightest of their societies in many ways.[…]

Far from having no family or job responsibilities, 73 percent were married and the vast majority had children. Those who were not married were usually too young to be married. Only 13 percent were madrassa-trained and most of them come from what I call the Southeast Asian sample, the Jemaah Islamiyya (JI).

It would be interesting to compare their profiles with those of Russian terrorists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Granted, the latter did not deliberately target innocents, but did not lose sleep when a few dozen bystanders were killed.

In an unrelated development, J. Cassian turns to Ossetian mythology.

“Your enemy is my enemy”, said the birch tree, and it lowered its tangled little branches in front of the Wheel, but it could not stop it. Soslan blessed the tree:

“May you be accounted best among trees. May men take your wood to make spits for their shashliks!”


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