According to people close to the terrorist mastermind behind the attacks in Manchestor, The 22-year-old was remembered as a “fun guy” who drank, took drugs and possibly had links with local gangs before appearing increasingly religious as his radicalisation deepened.
The same transformation has been documented in many of Europe’s deadliest terrorists, including petty criminals and drug dealers in the Isis “super cell” behind the Paris and Brussels attacks.
A report by
(ICSR) found that more than half of known European jihadis had criminal histories, making them easy fodder for Isis recruiters offering “redemption” in the name of jihad.
Professor Peter Neumann, director of the ICSR at King’s College London, said the emerging “crime-terror nexus” was making radicalisation harder to spot for security services.
“There is now a perfect fit between these young men and a group that has shed any attempt at serious theological discourse,” he told The Independent on the report’s release.
“Criminals are already used to violence, so for the jump from being an extremist to being a violent extremist is much smaller.”
Mr Neumann warned that the UK and other countries need to “rethink our strategy” to spot the warning signs for this new and dangerous form of jihadi.
Analysts said Isis propaganda portraying a life of action, adventure, brotherhood and purpose was particularly appealing for those facing dim prospects at home.