Patterns emerge in extremists’ backgrounds and motivations

In the winter of 2015 I began investigating a group of young British Muslims from Brighton who left the south coast to fight in Syria. I wanted to discover how and why three brothers, Abdullah, Jaffa and Amer Deghayes, chose to join Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian affiliate of al-Qaida, once the most powerful Islamist group fighting the forces of Bashar al-Assad. The project soon became my first exposure to the world of Libyan extremist politics and the influence it exerted over young men growing up in places such as Brighton and Manchester.

The remarkable narrative that unfolded through detailed testimony from family, friends, police, social services and counterterrorism officials seemed to offer a sequence of facts that would probably never be repeated. That was until Manchester.

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