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Lone wolves among us

May 31,2017
He was a 22-year-old college student from Manchester. Salman Ramadan Abedi also was the suicide bomber who detonated an explosive device at Manchester Arena. His parents were refugees from Libya, fleeing a dictatorship, and Abedi was born in Manchester. His parents returned to Libya, but he remained in the United Kingdom with his brother. A fan of Manchester United, he studied business management in college and has registered for the next semester.

U.K. authorities are investigating Abedi’s involvement with a terrorist network. His younger brother reportedly said the two were members of Islamic State, an armed extremist group. There are testimonies that Abedi expressed hate when he heard preaching criticizing IS at a mosque. However, it is unclear how a young man who lived in the U.K. for more than 20 years decided to kill innocent people with a suicide bomb.

Lone wolves, a metaphor for self-radicalized terrorists, are on the rise. Khalid Massod, who drove a car into pedestrians near the British Parliament in London in March, was born in England. The attackers that killed 130 people in Paris in 2015 were born and raised in France and Belgium. When a terrorist attack occurs, such as the truck ramming through people in Nice, France, in July 2015, IS claims responsibility. But the direct connection is often not confirmed.

It is strange that the Western world does not investigate why people who grew up in the West commit terror attacks. One of the two perpetrators of the 2015 San Bernardino attack was born in the United States and attended California State University. While calls for additional strikes on IS and reinforcement on gun control were raised, it was not studied how a U.S. citizen who lived and was educated in the United States for decades engaged in a mass shooting.

Terror attacks seem to have left the hands of IS. Experts say that young Muslims become lone wolves because they struggle with identity crises and isolation as immigrants in Western society. With the advancement of information and communication technology, their sense of isolation leads to them building homemade bombs. Abedi’s younger sister said he became interested in extremist groups after his Libyan British friend Abdul Wahab Hafidah was run over by a car and stabbed fatally. His family also said he was discontent with the government being insensitive to the death of people from immigrant families.

With more than 20,000 potential Jihadists in the U.K. alone, strikes on IS won’t be enough to prevent terrorist attacks. In the U.S., schools served the role of nurturing Americans, but pragmatic education focusing on grades and employment resulted in deterioration of citizenship education. President Donald Trump’s immigration policy and Britain’s secession from the EU won’t prevent homegrown terrorism.

Instead, teaching a sense of duty for diverse social members, rules of democracy, and ways to close the differences in opinions through talks from a young age can be the answer. The lone wolves that put society in danger feed on hatred and anger.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 30, Page 34

*The author is a London correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

KIM SUNG-TAK