Ali Almanasfi and the 78 Thieves: The Criminal’s Journey to Jihad

22 year old Ali Almanasfi, the son of a bus driver, grew up in West London with his mother and father who had a history of marital problems. As a teenager Almanasfi frequently engaged in a world of drugs, alcohol, and petty crime. Concerned for their son’s well-being, his parents sent him to study in Syria for one year. However, Almanasfi’s criminal behavior continued and culminated when he assaulted an elderly Syrian gentleman while intoxicated which gained him four years in prison. While in prison, Almanasfi took interest in religion and decided to return to his father’s hometown in Syria and fight in the resistance against the Bashar Assad regime. Upon release, Almanasfi returned to Syria to fight with the rebels but his ambitions were short lived when he took a wrong turn and drove into a government checkpoint near the city of Idlib. The soldiers on post immediately opened fire killing Almanasfi on the spot.

Almanasfi’s case is just one in 79 that have been examined in a report titled Criminal Pasts, Terrorist Futures: European Jihadists and the New Crime-Terror Nexus published by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence. The report discusses the criminal-terrorist nexus by examining radicalization, recruitment, financing, and transferable skills such as weapons, evasion, and familiarity to violence. Finally, the report outlines six policy recommendations which include re-thinking radicalization, mapping the crime-terror nexus, safer prison, targeting all streams of financing, information sharing, creating new coalitions.

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