Floral tributes near the scene of the recent attack at London Bridge and Borough Market, in central London, on June 6, 2017. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Toby Melville

London attacker’s mother blames internet for son’s radicalization

ROME (Reuters) The mother of the Italian-Moroccan jihadi who helped carry out a deadly attack in London last week said on Tuesday she had tried to keep her son from falling under the sway of Islamic State ideology, but the internet and his London friends changed him.

Valeria Khadija Collina, who is Italian and converted to Islam, spoke in an interview with Italy's L'Espresso news magazine about her son, Youssef Zaghba, 22, one of the perpetrators of the June 3 attack.

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"When children make mistakes, parents always feel some guilt. But I did my best, and I think he was worn down on the inside," she said. Collina lives near the northern city of Bologna.

"We always kept track of his friends and made sure he didn't fall in with the wrong people. But he had internet and that's where everything comes from," she said

Youssef Zaghba, 22, in an undated photo, is believed to be one of the three attackers in the June 3 terror attack on London Bridge. Photo courtesy of the British Metropolitan Police Service

Collina visited her son in London, and "that neighborhood did not make me feel comfortable," she said. "I was there and didn't like it. He spent his time with the wrong kind of people."

Collina said she had spoken to Italy's anti-terrorism police last year after her son was prevented from traveling to the Middle East, and that they were the ones who told her on Tuesday that her son had been one of the men who carried out the attack.

Zaghba was stopped at the airport in Bologna in 2016 when he was trying to get to Syria via Turkey, city prosecutor Giuseppe Amato told broadcaster Radio24 on Tuesday.

"A person going to Turkey with a backpack aroused some suspicion, also because he told the agent who checked him that he wanted to go and be a terrorist, then he corrected himself," Amato said.

Collina said her son had been enticed to try to go to Syria by a "fantasy that was transmitted by internet" in which he thought he could "live according to pure Islam," but that he did not mention wanting to fight there.

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Investigators confiscated Zaghba's computer but did not have proof of a crime. They returned the device but pointed him out to London as a possible suspect, Amato said.

British police said Zaghba had not been a subject of interest for them or the domestic intelligence agency MI5 before he and two others launched their attack.

Collina said she last spoke to her son two days before the attack and that in retrospect she realizes "it was a goodbye call." She also said she agreed with the Muslim religious leaders who refused to recite funeral prayers for the attackers.

"I understand and agree with their choice because it is necessary to send a strong political message," Collina said.

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Her son and the two other attackers rammed a van into pedestrians on London Bridge, then ran into the Borough Market area, and slit throats and stabbed people indiscriminately before they were shot and killed by police.

Italian media said Zaghba was born in the Moroccan city of Fez in 1995 but had broken off relations with his Moroccan father. He lived in Morocco for much of his life but made short visits to his mother.

He spent a total of 10 days in Italy in the past year and a half, the Bologna prosecutor said.

Collina said she would dedicate her life to fighting Islamic State ideology by "teaching real Islam to people and trying to convince families to fill the void that they might find in their children."

Comments

  1. The alienation of youth seems to be a growing and universal problem in the world whatever the culture, and to a large degree I think this mother is correct, the Internet has become a surrogate reality for any number of disaffected souls.

  2. The APA Disgnostics and Statistics Manual estimates that antisocial personality disorder prevalence at 1% of the population. Topped by the fact that neuroscientists generally agree that brains are not fully mature until roughly 25 suggests a potentially toxic combination.

  3. It is self-defeating to blame the Internet for someone’s “radicalization” without first acknowledging the attraction of Islam as a faith to its followers, whichever branch or sect of that faith they belong to or associate with. It has been an ineffective, counterproductive strategy to characterize your opponent by any number of negative labels such as “terrorist”, or “evil” or “extremist” or “radical”, You don’t win your battle by calling someone names. So what is the West supposed to do after its repeated miserable failure of regime change games that have backfired everywhere including Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria? The battle against your opponent cannot be won by super-bombs, as have been dropped by US military aircraft in Syria or elsewhere, nor by committing political assassinations of your opponent’s leaders such as Bin Laden by punching his body with bullet holes in his bedroom somewhere in Pakistan, nor by applying your superior military technologies and equipment to destroy physically cavemen Taliban fighters in Afghanistan who don’t have tanks or armored vehicles, much less fighter jets. Because you cannot kill the Islamic faith by any of those means. So to the wise men in UK, USA and any number of other Western powers: What are you going to do now?

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