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Sibylline report on extremism landscape

The collapse of the western-backed government in Afghanistan, and the 20th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks on America, have prompted much worry about terrorism. Those events are the backdrop to a risk intelligence consultancy’s latest report to clients, out tomorrow. Professional Security has had a briefing also. Mark Rowe reports.

The report is from the UK-based Sibylline. We last featured its founder Justin Crump in the summer of 2020 when – to give the firm its due – it was correctly predicting that the pandemic would end later, rather than sooner, as so many of us wished. (See the June 2020 print edition of the magazine.)

To be precise, the briefing was about extremism rather than terrorism, which includes the extreme right and left wing, besides Islamic State and other Islamist groups across continents, mainly the Middle East and Africa. The company reports that IS extremism is fundamentally a regional movement – expanding for example in west Africa.

All the work by Sibylline (and indeed other such consultancies) is to give paying clients value – through intelligence based on the real world, according to risk scoring, more concrete than an analyst’s perception. Although; it still takes people to make sense of incidents and patterns. In a word, intelligence is gathered and interpreted to allow understanding, and the learning lessons; the world as it really is, not as embassies, politicians and chiefs generally say it is or wish it were. Thus the big failure of 9-11 for Justin Crump – after we recall the loss of life – was the day after; the inability to understand what had happened. Justin said it was dispiriting that we still understand so little of what the jihadists are seeking to achieve.

Angry young men

On that point, before the August gun attack in Plymouth (UK), the ‘incel’ (‘involuntary celibate’) movement probably did not have enough attention; after the deaths in Plymouth, it now may have too much. Justin Crump made the point that jihadists, too, may be ‘angry young men who have life issues’. Otherwise isolated people people go down ‘rabbit holes’ of online chat, and can become radicalised. Yet that is not the same as plotting (let alone with backing from Afghanistan or anywhere) on a ‘shocking event’ on the scale of 9-11. One threat – in terms of reputation, for one thing – is, Sibylline were suggesting, to the tech sector; that extremists ‘weaponise’ innocent online spaces such as gamers’ platforms and stay one step ahead of the tech firms’ checkers.

More in the November 2021 print edition of Professional Security magazine.

View also the Sibylline blog.

Background

A new Extremism and Gaming Research Network (EGRN) intends to fill a gap in knowledge by evidencing how malign extremist actors may be using chat applications such as Discord, live-streaming sites such as Twitch, online games like Fortnite, and gaming platforms like Steam for harmful purposes. It’s launching online on October 6. Visit the RUSI website to sign up to the event.

Research by Nottingham Trent University (NTU) and Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) has used closed source data on the relationship between online activity and type of terrorism offences; and has been published in a parliamentary report by the Ministry of Justice.

On the website of the business body Resilience First, Sir David Veness CBE QPM, former senior British policeman and former Under-Secretary General of the UN Department of Safety & Security, has offered his thoughts on the retreat of Western forces from Afghanistan and the possible consequences in terms of terrorism.

About Justin Crump

The CEO of Sibylline is a British Army veteran and a Reservist; besides a board member of the Association of International Risk Intelligence Professionals (AIRIP); a member of the UK Risk and Security Management Forum; an organiser of the International Security Foundation’s annual dinner; and a mentor for a UK charity, Heropreneurs.

The company is offering ten full scholarship places on its Extended Learning Program for Military Veterans. Visit https://www.sibylline.co.uk/the-sibylline-extended-learning-program/.


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