OPINION: LESSONS FOR NIGERIA AS JIHADISTS EXPLOIT THE SOCIAL MEDIA TO RADICALIZE AND RECRUIT YOUTHS

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By Orshi Terhemba Ephraim.
     The ongoing insurgency in Nigeria has continued to expose the country to dynamics of international terrorism. One of the defining features of this global trend is the attempt by jihadists to recruit and radicalize youths through the social media.
     It is worthy to note that terrorists have cleverly constructed a potent propaganda strategy that attracts youths using influential social media networks. Some of the most commonly used networks include Facebook, Linkedin, ASK FM, Twitter, Tumblr and You Tube. The propaganda mixes religious ideology, pleasantries about common life and other benefits of jihadism.
     This form of twisted brainwashing has encouraged innocent victims to rapidly embrace fundamentalist ideas and reject all manners of civil practices. The prime targets of these recruiters are usually intelligent or charismatic youths who express resentment towards their government or western policies interpreted as affront to Islam.
     Operatives from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have been at the fore front of the new drive to recruit and radicalize vulnerable youths in recent times. For instance, 3 United States girls from the State of Colorado were recently radicalized by ISIS recruiters through ASK FM which is a social networking site that allows users to prompt one another and answer anonymous questions.     These teenagers had constant communication via the site with 2 ISIS recruiters including a high-level handler who swiftly radicalized them within a year. These vulnerable teenagers subsequently attempted to travel to Syria and join ISIS but were only saved from self-destruction when they were arrested in Frankfurt by German authorities following a tip-off by FBI.
     The above scenario present lessons for Nigeria given the borderless nature of the internet which allows extremists to access vulnerable youths. BHT’s widespread use of social media especially You Tube, which is easily accessed by the general public has already created a veritable platform which introduces fundamentalist ideas to Nigerian youths. There is no doubt that a combination of BHT’s and international terrorist’ propaganda on social media portends grave security threat to Nigeria.
     This is more so as some Nigerian youths have already been linked with dastardly terrorist acts. Some of the notable ones include the infamous attempted bombing of a Detroit bound plane on 25 Dec 09 by Umar Faruk Abdulmutallab and slaying of a British soldiers at Woolwich, London on 22 May 13.
From the foregoing, these developments portend a great danger for Nigeria’s security. Parent and Guardians are jointly advise to be vigilant and closely monitor the activities of their children/wards on the social media in order not to be radicalized by the jihadist groups through the social media.

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