Terrorists Brothers: Not So Radicals As You Think

Many Islamic State recruits have been far from devout Muslims, despite claiming that their victims’ lives are decadent and obscene.

In terrorist attacks around the world, brothers keep turning up as suspects. Sometimes one “radicalizes” the other; other times, they seem to join up in tandem.

Brussels Bombings

  • Khalid and Ibrahim el-Bakraoui


    Little is known about Khalid and Ibrahim el-Bakraoui, whom the authorities named on Wednesday as having been involved in the Brussels attacks the morning before. Ibrahim blew himself up at the city’s main airport, they said, and Khalid at a subway station.

    Khalid, 27, was sentenced to five years in prison in 2011 for his involvement in a carjacking ring and was caught with a Kalashnikov. Ibrahim, 29, was sentenced to nine years in prison in 2010 for attempted murder after he and two other men robbed a currency exchange and shot at the police. It was not clear when or how they were released.

Paris Attacks

  • Salah and Ibrahim Abdeslam

  • Salah and Ibrahim Abdeslam, both involved in the Paris attacks of Nov. 13, 2015, seem to have become radicalized together. It happened over the last couple of years while they were running a bar in their hometown,Molenbeek, a district of Brussels.

    Ibrahim, the older of the two, died when he detonated a suicide vest in Le Comptoir Voltaire, a cafe in the 11th arrondissement of Paris. Salah appears to have been principally a logistician and organizer, and the authorities say he was the sole surviving Paris attacker. He was captured on March 18 in Brussels after evading investigators for 125 days, and charged with terrorist murder.

    The Paris terrorist who is the target of a massive manhunt in Belgium was apparently known for his fondness of drugs, video games, and gay bars.

    Salah Abdeslam had an unknown role in the November 13th attacks and manage to flee France before authorities began searching for him. He is believed to have rented one of the cars used to taxi the jihadis to and from their targets.

    There is a paradox to the recent terrorist attacks in Paris. As it claimed responsibility for them, Islamic State said they were meant as a strike against European depravity. Yet the perpetrators of the attack were apparently no puritans.

    The IS message called Paris “the capital of prostitution and obscenity” and the rock concert at the Bataclan, where most of the victims died, a “profligate prostitution party” for “hundreds of apostates”. That’s standard rhetoric for the group, which has been known to execute people for smoking, drinking or homosexuality. It’s supposed to have a low tolerance of vice, though slavery and rape are tolerated, encouraged, if the victim is an infidel.

    Yet after the Paris attacks, witnesses reported seeing one of the top suspects – Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who was later killed by French police – sitting outside his apartment drinking and smoking pot with his friends. He was apparently known on his street as someone who liked to hang out.

    But despite his involved in a radical Islamic terrorist attack, regulars at a Brussels gay bar told the UK’s Sunday Times that Abdeslam was also a regular. One bartender said that Abdeslam was there so often and flirted with so many other men, they figured he must have been a male prostitute.

    Abdeslam was also known for smoking marijuana and hanging out his brother’s bar to play video games.

    Carlie Hebdo

  • Chérif and Said Kouachi

  • Chérif and Said Kouachi entered the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in January 2015 and gunned down 12 people in and around its offices, including eight of its journalists and cartoonists. Charlie Hebdo had published cartoons lampooning the ProphetMuhammad. Chérif appears to have been the more hard-line of the two, and to have influenced his brother. They became radicalized gradually, over a 10-year period. Both died in a police shootout shortly after the attacks.

Boston Bombings

  •  Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
  • Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev carried out the 2013 bombings at the Boston Marathon, killed three people and injured more than 260.Dzhokhar, the younger brother, was a college student. Both were self-radicalized and had not traveled to wage jihad in the Middle East or elsewhere.

    Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with the police, and Dzhokar wassentenced to death. He is in prison while his lawyers work on his appeal.


    • Waleed and Wail al-Shehri


      Waleed and Wail al-Shehri sat side by side on American Airlines Flight 11, which struck the World Trade Center’s North Tower on Sept. 11, 2001. Wail, the older brother, had suffered from psychological problems. The brothers are believed to have stabbed two unarmed flight attendants as the hijacking began.

      After the attacks, it took time for the authorities to identify them as brothers. Their last name is common, and siblings don’t always use the same surname.

      Nawaf and Salem al Hazmi

    • Nawaf and Salem al Hazmi were among the hijackers who flew American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon. The brothers were selected for extra scrutiny when they checked in for their flight at Dulles International Airport. But “the only consequence of their selection was that their checked bags were held off the plane until it was confirmed that they had boarded the aircraft,” the report by the 9/11 Commission found.

      In the months and days leading up to 9/11, the alleged hijackers were reported to have drank alcohol heavily in bars, purchased pornographic materials, watched strippers, and paid for lap dances.  Needless to say, people who follow the teachings of the Qu’ran (Muslims) do not do any of those things.As Temple University professor of Islamic Studies, Mahmoud Mustafa Ayoub, said in relation to the alleged 9/11 hijackers—“Islam does not condone killing innocent people in the name of God. Nor can a devout Muslim drink booze or party at a strip club and expect to reach heaven.”[12]

      Two of the men were being watched by the CIA for at least twenty months prior to 9/11.  These were Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al Mihdhar, and they did not follow the Qu’ran either.  As reported by the Los Angeles Times, these two were often seen at Cheetah’s, a nude bar in San Diego.

      The most glaring examples of non-Muslim behavior, however, were exhibited by the alleged hijacker pilots of American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175.  According to the 911CR, Mohammed Atta and Marwan al Shehhi piloted these airliners and crashed them into the WTC towers. Public knowledge about them indicates that they might have been trained at U.S. military facilities, but it is clear that they did not even try to follow the Qu’ran.  Frankly, Phillip Zelikow is more of a Muslim than they were.

      For one thing, Atta and al Shehhi were known to dress in gaudy jewelry and clothes. Because of this, people thought they were mafia characters. As author Daniel Hopsicker wrote, they wore “Gold jewelry, expensive watches, and silk shirts” and were “Not exactly a description of Islamic fundamentalists.”[13]  Additionally, their activities in Florida, in the years prior to 9/11, were closely aligned with those of gunrunners and drug smugglers, which also indicates that they were anything but Muslims.

      Atta’s stripper girlfriend, Amanda Keller, said that Atta and al Shehhi “had massive supplies of cocaine” which they restocked whenever needed at one of the flight schools run by Dutch nationals in Florida.  Keller said that during the time she dated him, she saw Atta do cocaine himself on multiple occasions.[14]  And, of course, Muslims don’t do cocaine or other illicit drugs.

      Witnesses saw Al Shehhi and Atta drunk at a Hollywood, Florida sports bar.  On another occasion in Palm Beach, Atta and Alshehhi were seen spending $1,000 on champagne in only 45 minutes.  During the latter escapade, Atta was with a tall busty brunette and Alshehhi was with a short blonde woman. Both women were known locally as high-priced escorts.[15]

      A stripper in Las Vegas, Nevada recalled that Marwan al Shehhi was “cheap,” because he paid only $20 for a lap dance. In the summer of 2001, Al Shehhi was apparently also seen in a nude bar in Pompado Beach, Florida.  Six exotic dancers who worked there testified to seeing him. At the same time, both al Shehhi and Hamza Alghamdi were witnessed purchasing pornographic video and sex toys from a Florida store.  The Wall Street Journalreported that Alghamdi watched a porn video in his hotel room, and others witnessed alleged hijacker Majed Moqed visiting a porn shop on several occasions in the months before 9/11.[16]

      This same categorically non-Muslim behavior was also true for Ziad jarrah, the alleged hijacker pilot of Flight 93, which was destroyed in a field in Pennsylvania.  Seven months before the attacks, it was noticed that Jarrah “frequented” a strip club in Jacksonville, Florida.[17]

      The 911CR says that six of the alleged hijackers lived in Paterson, NJ for up to six months.  This included Hani Hanjour, Nawaf al Hazmi, Khalid al Mihdhar, the man mis-identified as Abdulaziz al Omari, and others.  Reports put Ziad Jarrah in Paterson as well.  The mayor of Paterson, Marty Barnes, certainly noticed them and he made the point of how non-Muslim they were, saying—“Nobody ever saw them at mosques, but they liked the go-go clubs.”[18]

      Given that Atta and friends were so far from being Muslims, it actually makes sense that the U.S. government would try, in the days after 9/11, to bolster the political story by adding actual Muslims to their quickly drawn-up list.  The real al Omari, for example, was obviously not involved.  But the discrepancy between his being an imam and a go-go club aficionado who never went to the mosques would quickly be lost in the post-9/11 clamor for revenge.  And the public’s most banal and prejudiced tendencies could be better exploited with hints of Muslim connections, no matter how weak, just as they have been with the anthrax attacks and the ongoing FBI-planned terrorism


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