Knowing how the terrorist's brain ticks

Knowing how the terrorist's brain ticks

SINGAPORE - To win the war against terrorists, one needs first to understand the workings of a terrorist's mind.

At a time when terrorism has morphed from the Sept 11, 2001 type of large-scale attacks to smaller-scale assaults carried out by self-radicalised individuals, the old methods of chasing, catching, jailing or killing terrorists are fast losing effectiveness.

The way forward is to use the way a terrorist's mind works against him.

Recent work by security experts on how a terrorist thinks is providing new ammunition to fight terrorism.

Maryland University's Professor Arie Kruglanski tells The Straits Times that many terrorists are just like ordinary folk, placing importance on their families, career and hobbies.

The tipping point when they cross the line over to terrorism is when the level of motivation intensifies to the point where they use violent methods to kill.

Prof Kruglanski says that at the lower levels of involvement, a terrorist supports a terrorist organisation passively as a member or by giving money to the cause. He may join a terrorist organisation but does not take part in weapons training or a suicide attack.

But he becomes dangerous when he gets emotionally aroused and sees the need to defend others who have been humiliated by the enemy, either through massacres or other forms of injustices.

For some terrorists, the brainwashing may even begin young, with bedtime stories.

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