For years, anthropologist Scott Atran has interviewed terrorists, talking with them about their beliefs and ideologies to understand why religious and sacred values are so potent. When it comes to predicting violent extremist attacks, he tells Nature that:
The best predictors turn out to be things like who your friends are and whether you belong to some action group. In the case of the Kouachi brothers [who committed the Charlie Hebdo attack], we had the greatest bonding experience and that is prison. But it could be soccer, it could be whitewater rafting.
If you want to find out who's going to fight and die, if you want to break up a particular terrorist cell, find out what they’re eating and how they dress. Plots never occur in mosques: you have to be quiet in a mosque. They occur in fast food places, soccer fields, picnics and barbeques.
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