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Counting Jihadis

Friday, September 14, 2007  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt
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From my interview yesterday with Walid Phares (transcript here):

HH: Now I doubt there are many people who have spent as much time as you have, Dr. Phares, in studying the jihadist movement. Can you give us a guess, your best estimate, of how many jihadis there are who believe in violence, and are willing to sacrifice themselves in the cause? 

WP: Let me call them, that’s a new word, I’m breaking it right now, the pre-jihadists, meaning those who have been recruited and indoctrinated to the ideology, to Islamic fundamentalism, if you want, or jihadism. I’m afraid to say they are in the millions, the pool. Those who have crossed the line to become jihadi activists, meaning terrorists in our legal language, meaning those who are ready to either sacrifice themselves or engage in confrontation, we’re talking about in the hundreds of thousands. Those who have linked up with al Qaeda, you know, go from circle to circle, probably somewhere around 30,000 around the world.

HH: And how many at each level do you believe to be in the United States? Let’s start with the 30,000 hard core members or affiliates of al Qaeda. [# More #]

WP: Let me begin from across the Atlantic. The British are monitoring, that’s the British government numbers which are the lesser numbers, obviously. 1,500 in the UK who could become suicide bombers. In the United States, no government has yet dared advancing any numbers, experts, and among them, would dare to say that at least, we’re talking about 3,000 of those who are jihadi, ready to action. How many potential suicide bombers? Every single time we catch a cell, the two or three members are suicide bombers. So at least in the hundreds. 

HH: All right, and then of the number who are jihadi activists in the United States? 

WP: Well, jihadi activists, you’re talking at least, I mean, these are rough numbers based on different types of estimates, somewhere between 5,000 to 10,000. 

HH: And in terms of pre-jihadi recruits, people who are indoctrinated in the Salafist extreme ideology? 

WP: Well, every time there is an attempt at research to see who many people believe in that trend, any time there is an attempt for polling, then you have the Wahhabi activists and all sort of lobbies that say oh, this is discrimination, and they’re trying to pick who is thinking in that way, so it’s very difficult. But you’ve got to double or triple the original number I gave, about 30,000, probably.

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