Roche 'naive, vulnerable'

Herald Sun/June 26, 2004

A case study of Australian al-Qaeda recruit Jack Roche and other western al-Qaeda recruits reveals vulnerable and naive characters who could just as easily have joined cults or hate groups.

US private sector intelligence group Stratfor (strategic forecasting) said terror group al-Qaeda constantly changed and adapted, seeking new ways to avoid detection and catch its opponents off guard.

"Rather than sending foreigners into other nations to carry out surveillance and strikes, the group has found it can achieve surprise and minimise exposure by recruiting native Western operatives," Stratfor said in an analysis released today.

It said there were many suspected al-Qaeda sympathisers and operatives in the US and other countries and a study of three recent cases gave an insight into into those drawn to its message.

Stratfor cited the cases of Australian Jack Roche, recently jailed for nine years, American Jose Padilla who plotted to set off a dirty bomb and Briton Richard Reid, who tried to set off a shoe bomb on an airliner.

English-borne Roche was an alcoholic who converted to Islam in 1993 in a bid to beat his drinking problem.

He travelled to Indonesia, affiliating with the terror group Jemaah Islamiah, and then went to Afghanistan where he undertook terrorist training.

Roche conducted surveillance on the Israeli embassy in Canberra but proved reluctant to go ahead with an actual operation. He even attempted to telephone the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation which apparently paid him no attention.

Stratfor said the backgrounds of Reid and Padilla were not dissimilar.

Padilla was a gang member with numerous run-ins with police who converted to Islam in 1992 then travelled overseas to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Reid was a juvenile petty criminal who turned to Islam while in jail. He too travelled to Pakistan and then Afghanistan.

Stratfor said all three turned to Islam to fill a void in their lives and get on a more correct path. All three proved susceptible to external influences in their newfound religion and lifestyle.

"The common denominators in these three cases are not socioeconomic conditions or age," Stratfor suggested.

"Rather, they are a perceived need for belonging to something, a vulnerability and naivety that left the three men susceptible to radical teachings.

"Radical white hate groups and other cults also recruit members by tapping into these kinds of vulnerabilities."

Stratfor said many Westerners converted to Islam but only a small number were enticed by its radical teachings.

"A still smaller number actually act on these teachings, receiving training in places such as Pakistan, Afghanistan or Indonesia and transitioning from radicalism to militantism," it said.

"Still fewer become al-Qaeda operatives - a step that requires denouncing one's own nation in favour of a broader ideology."

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