Study: Terrorist groups recruiting Kenyan youth through social media

The internet is increasingly being used by militant groups such as Al Shabaab to recruit unsuspecting youths in Kenya and around the globe.

An analysis published by the Institute of Security Studies has identified the internet as a major tool to  radicalise and recruit youths to join outlawed groups such as Al Shabaab and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The report cites the case of three young women– two Kenyans and one from Tanzania – who were arrested in March by police as they allegedly headed to Somalia to join Al Shabaab militants.

The youths were allegedly recruited through social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp.

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According to Irene Ndungu, an ISS researcher on transnational threats and International Crime, the incident raised concerns about the role of the internet and social media in radicalising and recruiting youths into criminal groups.

“What is evident is that extremist groups systematically and intentionally use the Internet and social media to spread their propaganda,” she said.

“Given that terrorism is a global problem and the Internet is borderless, there is an urgent need for concerted regional and international responses and cooperation in dealing with this trend,” she added.

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The researcher noted that the trend is global, including western countries, where youths have been enticed to join violent groups through propaganda that is easily available through internet.

She expressed concern that internet and social media platforms allow violent groups in distant parts of the world such as ISIL in Syria to seek recruits even in Kenya.

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On Tuesday, it emerged that two university students who were reported missing in April might have joined ISIS, bringing to six the number of Kenyan students suspected to have joined ISIS.

It is believed that violent extremist groups have developed sophisticated tactics of enticing the youths through the internet using carefully-packaged propaganda.

Empirical studies undertaken by ISS senior researcher Anneli Botha have indicated that most respondents who joined violent groups are youths between 20 and 25 years old. This category is believed to be active on the internet and vulnerable to propaganda and manipulation.

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