The mystery of Khalid Masood’s journey into violence and terror

Police experts will study every aspect of the life of the 52-year-old who wreaked havoc at parliament. But his motives are a conundrum that may never be solved

Around Christmas, neighbours saw a van outside a small but comfortable home in the Winson Green neighbourhood of Birmingham. Khalid Masood, his partner and two children were moving out. Their new home was close by, but infinitely less salubrious. Their canalside terrace house had been swapped for a tiny bedsit above a restaurant on a busy road.

This and many other details will be picked over by analysts seeking to reconstitute the life of the man who killed four people with a 4×4 vehicle and knives before being shot dead outside the Houses of Parliament last week. The official aim will be to build up a comprehensive picture of the man responsible for the most lethal terrorist attack in Britain since 2005, in order to understand how he could have been stopped. Another aim will be simply to understand what turns someone into a terrorist killer.

“Clearly the main line of our investigation is what led him to be radicalised,” said Mark Rowley, Scotland Yard’s top counter-terrorism officer, on Friday.

Yet even such a seemingly banal objective is problematic. Many experts now question the whole concept of radicalisation. The FBI talks of “pathways to violence”, stressing that every individual’s journey to extremist murder is unique. There are fierce debates over the role of ideology, social circumstances, individual personality traits, and mental illness. Analysts prefer to talk of “risk factors” rather than “root causes”.

But some trends are evident. One is age. Masood, 52, was an outlier. Ten years ago, the average age of attackers in the west was around 29. Now it is nearer 25. In France almost 2,000 teenagers have been radicalised by Islamic State, officials say, with a 121% increase between 2015 and 2016.

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Source By https://www.theguardian.com

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