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Lone Wolf Attacks: Abusing family bonds of trust

For some time now we’ve been warning against the dangers of lone wolf attacks.

But it turns out that an increasing number of “lone wolves” actually have a complex network around them of family or close friends. Daesh like to create networks like this because friends and family trust and support each other. They’re good at keeping secrets, and if one of them gets arrested, the others can carry on.

At FAST, we have supported families torn apart by their loved one departing to join Daesh or getting involved in extremist activity online. But we also need to be there for the cousin, brother or friend who have been used by Daesh to radicalise each other.

How do we break through and stop somebody falling into violent activity? Daesh abuses bonds of trust. We saw that with the French terror suspect Sara Hervouet, who was arrested earlier this month for an attempted attack near Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. On two separate occasions she has been in a relationship with two known terrorists who were involved in murders. The first boyfriend stabbed a policeman and his wife to death while the second killed a priest in his church.

Her commitment to the terrorist cause was made stronger by her loyalty to those men. It makes it doubly hard to de-radicalise someone when such strong, emotional bonds are involved. But as hard as it is, there is still a way to break the spell they are under. There are skilled and caring people who can help them wake up to the enormity of the crime they are thinking of committing.

Those of us who know a loved one who is falling into the terrorist trap owe it to those people to stop them. It’s not an act of betrayal to tell the authorities before they do something they’ll regret. We can help you reach someone you are concerned about before they end up in prison. Surely that’s a better outcome for a family member or friend than letting them harm innocent men, women and children?

It seems that lone wolves are not so alone after all. They have accomplices and co-conspirators very close to them. That creates difficulties but also opportunities to act decisively.

All we have to do to stop mass murder is look out for each other and ask for help before it’s too late.


Saleha Jaffer,

Founder of Families Against Stress & Trauma (FAST)

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