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Thursday, February 22, 2024

The YouTube Browsing Habits of a Lone-Actor Terrorist

On 10 October 2019, Safiyya Amira Shaikh was arrested in London for planning a terrorist attack on St. Paul’s Cathedral. Shaikh had conducted surveillance on the cathedral, prepared a pledge of allegiance to the caliph of the self-styled Islamic State, and had unwittingly asked two undercover police officers to supply her with explosives for the attack. Messaging one of the undercover officers, she wrote: “I would like to bomb and shoot ’til death … I really would love to destroy that place and the kaffir [infidels] there.”

Shaikh had a substantial digital footprint. She was the administrator of a Facebook page for Muslim converts, created in 2012, which featured stories of how people – especially women – came to Islam, and was active on Telegram. She also had several YouTube profiles, including one that featured 89 playlists between 2017 and 2018. This material gives a rich insight into her background, circumstances, and radicalisation.

First, it shows that Shaikh was struggling with drug addiction. In the autumn of 2017, she created several playlists on YouTube – titled ‘drug support’, ‘overcoming haram [forbidden] situations’ and ‘dua [prayer] for addict’ – which featured videos on how to overcome drug addiction, all through the framing of her Islamic faith.

Read more at the Global Network on Extremism & Technology

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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