Preying on potential terrorists


by Sunny
24th May, 2008 at 7:04 pm    

I was going to write about the failed nail-bomber in Exeter but I didn’t for various reasons. The main reason is that the guy may have been a Muslim convert but there’s no evidence to suggest he was part of an active cell. It may very well have been that the mentally ill convert became more radicalised on his own and went out on a warpath alone.

In that context he is no different to a severely mentally ill person who attacks someone without provocation. I do also want to say most mentally ill don’t do this, so I don’t want to feed into the media narrative that mentally ill people are a menace to society. In most cases they are a danger to themselves.

For example, on Harry’s Place Brett says:

Now we know Islamist terrorists in Iraq use mentally disabled people as suicide bombers, but it would be a quite a wake-up if our local jihadis have now adopted similar tactics.

And this is where I become somewhat suspicious you see. The story of the twin-bombs in Baghdad, detonated apparently by women with Down’s Syndrome (we blogged it too) was never confirmed by medical reports. In fact, I remember watching a video on the NY Times website (which I can’t find now) where an intelligence officer cited that as an example of the US military getting a grip on their public relations (meaning propaganda) and putting out that story before anything had been confirmed.

So, beware received wisdom that mentally ill people are good fodder for suicide bombers. Not that it makes much difference, but my point is that the Exeter bombing incident may have more to it than meets the eye.


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  1. unitalian — on 24th May, 2008 at 7:14 pm  

    Like the 8 year old girl who turned out to be… 16.

    http://sayanythingblog.com/entry/oh_goodthe_eight_year_old_suicide_bomber_was_actually_sixteen/

    So that’s alright then… not.

  2. Gege — on 24th May, 2008 at 7:38 pm  

    I was interested in the story for different reasons. Many have called for racial profiling. A white muslim terrorist would destroy the foundations of their argument.

  3. Sunny — on 24th May, 2008 at 8:41 pm  

    So that’s alright then… not.

    Of course its not ok, and I make that point at the end. But we should still make the righst points than repeating wrong urban myths.

  4. septicisle — on 24th May, 2008 at 10:50 pm  

    It’s ludicrous to jump to conclusions within hours of something happening, which is why the police announcing less than 12 hours after it had occurred that they believed Reilly had been “preyed upon and radicalised” was so surprising and potentially ill-judged, even if they had apparently been “aware” of him.

    One one level it is potentially concerning but not because of the bomber himself yet, but rather because this suggests that the jihadists are starting to get the idea that going for spectacular blow-outs (i.e. liquid bombs, last year’s petrol and patio gas canisters and Barot’s “dirty bomb) doesn’t work, but far more vulnerable targets such as restaurants or buses are “far easier” targets. If they take lessons from Israel and Sri Lanka rather than al-Qaida, that’s when we ought to start to worry.

  5. unitalian — on 25th May, 2008 at 8:18 am  

    Of course they may have been well aware of him in advance, along with the background, but were unable to move for fear of being pounced on by Pickled Politics commenters, sorry I mean human rights lawyers ;-)

  6. Sunny — on 25th May, 2008 at 3:35 pm  

    Of course they may have been well aware of him in advance,

    You’re just idly speculating in order to confirm your position :)

  7. douglas clark — on 25th May, 2008 at 3:43 pm  

    Just out of interest, there is a debate going on over at Crooked Timber about suicide bombing in general.

    http://crookedtimber.org/2008/05/23/capital-and-labour-in-british-terrorism/

    Sunny, who is an economist I think, might find it quite interesting. The question that isn’t directly addressed there, and one that I think is worth asking, is why suicide bombing? We, the general public I mean, were initially shocked and horrified that people would blow themselves up for the sake of a cause. But it has now got past that, we now see them as just total crazies. At least that is my reading of it.

    It is also kind of wasteful in terms of human capital too. Why is it still the favoured way of making a terrorist statement? Do Islamists who do not commit suicide during their ‘mission’ think they go to hell? Or what?

  8. 5cc — on 25th May, 2008 at 11:49 pm  

    Link about the ‘Down Syndrome’ bombers:

    US: Bombers Didn’t Have Down Syndrome

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