Recruiting Jihadists

E-mail Steve

Nov.1,  2004 8:23 AM

Just back from Paris, where each day began with a hot chocolate, a warm croissant, and the newspaper. A good, quiet way to start the day.

The story we are working on is the recruitment of young European Muslims to go fight in Iraq. It's not an easy story to do, and requires the use of middlemen. These are people who get video or set up interviews for a price. Sometimes it is not a pleasant business, especially when the subject is jihad.

The first step in recruitment is the identification of "hard" young men in rough neighborhoods or at prayers in a mosque. We followed an imam around as he went up and spoke to young people in a public housing area outside of Paris. The imam, like many Imams in Europe, had no formal training. He is a self-appointed imam. He even marries people, some as young as 15. I asked him if he was taking the law into his own hands. He laughed and said he was. He was careful to skirt the issue of violence on camera.

In later steps, after potential recruits are identified, they are taken to apartments away from the mosque for indoctrination and to view video. Initial meetings stress injustices done against Muslims. Later on in the process, which can take months, the video used shows successful Muslim attacks, kidnappings or torture against Westerners. I got a hold of one of these tapes, plus video of young men watching the tapes.

I had seen some stuff like it before — out of Chechnya, the torture of captured Russian forces — but I have never seen a tape this bad. There were three people in the room when we put the tape in, me, a freelance producer, and the middleman who got us the tape. A few seconds in, the producer ran out, and the middleman turned his head away. Even if you turned your head you could still hear it. A few seconds later, the middleman ran out of the room. I stayed in but turned my head away, but I couldn't get away from the sound. A young man was gasping for his life. He was being murdered, and being filmed, and people were standing around watching.

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Steve Harrigan currently serves as a Miami-based correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC). He joined the network in 2001 as a Moscow-based correspondent.