London: Young men looking for redemption from crime, drugs or gangs by waging 'jihad' are the new targets for the ISIS terror group, a media report said on Tuesday.
In what it called a "dangerous new crime-terror nexus", The Telegraph reported that more than half of European jihadis have criminal histories as ISIS offers 'redemption'.
A poster with an image of a masked fighter wielding a Kalashnikov shared on Facebook by Rayat al-Tawheed, a group of British ISIS fighters from London calling themselves the "Banner of God", had the slogan: "Sometimes people with the worst pasts create the best futures."
"Their target is young men looking for redemption from crime, drugs or gangs, willing to save their souls by waging jihad for the so-called Islamic State," the report said.
It cited new research to show that "for all of its professed piousness", majority of recruits of the terror group have criminal histories, an unprecedented figure for former Islamist movements emphasising purity and scholarly knowledge.
A report by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) shows that criminal and terrorist networks across Europe are merging to create a dangerous brand of jihadi for whom violence is not just a holy pursuit, but a way of life, it said.
Professor Peter Neumann, director of the ICSR at King's College London, was quoted as saying that the new "crime- terror nexus" was making radicalisation harder to spot for European security services.
Several European fighters in the ICSR's database continue to smoke, drink and even take drugs up until their departure for the ISIS even as security services might expect radicalised young men to change their behaviour and act "religiously", Neumann said.
"Similarly, criminality does not always stop with a commitment to jihad. Said Kouachi may have used funds from selling counterfeit trainers to buy the weapons he and his brother used to carry out the Charlie Hebdo massacre, while the Paris and Brussels "supercell" used their connections in the criminal underworld to manufacture the fake documents that would let them evade security services," the report said.
Neumann said that of the jihadis examined for the study, two-thirds had not just a criminal history but a violent history. In European countries where the figure is known, more than half of ISIS fighters were previously known to the police.
"It gives criminals a moral justification for doing what they have always been doing ? only now they will go to heaven," he said.
ISIS' ideology puts less emphasis on theological knowledge and more on absolute obedience to its own interpretation, with the majority of recruits listed in leaked registration forms tellingly describing their Sharia knowledge as "basic".
"It (ISIS) basically says 'you can come in if you sign up to the mission, we don't care if you know true Islam, we are true Islam'," Neumann said.