Why Are Brothers So Prevalent In Islamic Terrorism?

The Brussels attack, like the Charlie Hebdo attack, The Paris Bombings, and The Boston Marathon bombings were all carried out by brothers who were involved in Islamic terrorism and it has many people asking the question, why are brothers so prevalent in these situations? Islamic terrorism seems to not only be growing via social media but also through family ties. According to The New York Times, brothers Khalid and Ibrahim el-Bakraoui have been named as suspects in the Brussels attacks.

The Charlie Hebdo Attacks were carried out by brothers Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, who were Islamic radicalists. In December, months before any of the Brussels incidents, NPR spoke with Rik Coolsaet, a professor at Ghent University in Belgium, about the prevalence of Islamic terrorism in brothers and Coolsaet stated “it is very often the case that you are not, as an individual, radicalizing all by yourself. Often it is a case that you radicalize due to small-group dynamics — kinship and friendship bonds.” They also spoke with Reid Sawyer who ran the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point and heard an echoing answer. Sawyer stated, “when you find one person that radicalizes in a family, it is a great predictor that somebody else in that family — either immediately a brother or a cousin — is likely to participate.”

Said and Cherif Kouachi
Brothers Khalid Bakraoui and Ibrahim El Bakraoui who carried out the recent attacks in Belgium (Photos by Belgian Federal Police and Interpol via AP, FILE)

Brahim Abdeslam, who blew himself up outside of the Comptoir Voltaire restaurant in France is the brother of Salah Abdeslam who was arrested in a raid on a Brussels apartment last Friday. According to Politico, “Abdeslam’s fingerprints were found in an apartment in the Brussels neighborhood of Forest…where officers found detonators that were probably meant to be used in the attacks.” Salah Abdeslam is believed to have played a key role in masterminding the attacks on Brussels. The bombmaker believed to be behind the Paris Attacks was also killed during the raid. The Guardian stated that the third Abdeslam brother, Mohammed, was arrested but released, stating that he had no connection to the Paris attacks. Muhammed also said that “my parents are completely shocked by the tragedy. My two brothers are normal and I have never noticed anything strange.”

Salah Abdeslam raid
Police officers secure a street during a raid in Brussels. After an intense four-month manhunt across Europe and beyond, police on Friday captured Salah Abdeslam, the top fugitive in the Paris attacks in the same Brussels neighborhood where he grew up. [Photo by Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP Images]

According to The Guardian, The Abdeslam brothers were reportedly radicalized by Abdelhamid Abaaoud in the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek which has “become a hotbed for terrorism.” Abaaoud is also thought to be behind the Paris attacks, which killed 130 in November.

The Tsarnaev brothers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar, who were responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings also radicalized to Islamic terrorism together. Dkzhokhar, who was sentenced to death last May, was reportedly radicalized by his older brother. According to The New Yorker, Judy Clarke, the prosecutor for the surviving brother stated in the courtroom that he was “an adolescent drawn into a passion and belief of his older brother.” And this seems to be the case in many of these episodes, a bond of brotherhood is exploited to the result that the older brother turns the younger to terrorism.

The Guardian stated the following.

“Research by New America, a nonpartisan thinktank in the United States, showed that more than a quarter of western fighters have a familial connection to jihad, whether through relatives who are also fighting in Syria and Iraq, through marriage or through some link to other jihads or terrorist attacks.”

In all likelihood, these attacks are far from over, Islamic terrorism has a knack for engaging the disenfranchised and as long as that’s happening there will be brothers recruiting each other.

[Photo by Belgian Federal Police via AP Images]

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