High-profile attacks on major cities in Belgium, France and the United States have set the world on edge. Commentators are talking of a new kind of protracted guerrilla war stretching from the Americas and Europe across Africa, Asia and the Arab world. This one is irregular, hybrid and networked, involving a constellation of terrorist organizations such as ISIS and Al Qaeda. Rather than hitting specific groups of people or symbolic sites, cities themselves are coming under siege. Complicating matters, violent extremists are recruiting directly from poorer and marginal neighborhoods across the West.
The extent of local recruitment and so-called “extremist travelling” from Western countries is certainly cause for concern. One study estimates that as many as 31,000 people from 86 countries have made the trip to Iraq or Syria to join ISIS or other extremist groups since June 2014. It is not just Western Europe or North America that is proving to be fertile ground for so-called remote radicalization, but also Russia and Central Asia. Many foreign fighters are killed while fighting abroad, but as many as 30% of them eventually make the trip back home. Politicians are scrambling to respond and hate crimes against minority groups are on the rise.
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