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Jihad Jane case suggests rising threat from online 'jihobbyists'

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“Both men and women who were once written off as hapless wannabes and mere ‘jihobbyists’ are unexpectedly rising to the occasion, in often quite desperate bids to prove their total commitment to the cause,” terrorism expert Evan Kohlmann recently wrote on the Counterterrorism Blog, a forum dedicated to counterterrorism issues.

“Their pedigree is less than elite, and they lack the traditional connections back to Al Qaeda's central leadership,” he wrote. “Yet, even Al Qaeda's senior echelon now openly recognizes the critical value of these potential 'lone wolf' operatives.”

Jarret Brachman, author of “Global Jihadism: Theory and Practice,” coined the term “jihobbyist” as a way to identify people who weren’t part of a group such as Al Qeada or Al Shabaab, the Somali militant group, but have a growing fascination with radical Islam.

“These are fans in the same way other people might follow football teams. But their sport is Al Qaeda,” Mr. Brachman said in a November interview with The Dallas Morning News. The interview followed charges against Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, a Muslim, for the deaths of 13 people in a shooting spree at Fort Hood, Texas.

But “jihobbyism stops when you cross over that line from thought to action," Brachman said. "[W]hen they start stepping toward making something violent happen – including when you knowingly fund a terrorist organization – that crosses the line from jihobbyism to material support for terrorism.”

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