New social network links ex-terrorists and victims

Google launched a new online social network on Wednesday to link former German neo-Nazis with former radical Islamists in Indonesia - and their victims - to find ways to combat extremism.

New social network links ex-terrorists and victims
Photo: DPA

The new social network for former violent extremists around the globe – and their victims – was launched in New York on Wednesday by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) and Google Ideas.

It aims to share expertise on preventing young people from becoming radicalised and helping individuals to leave violent extremist groups.

The network, (AVE), will also include those with an interest in countering violent extremism: activists, policy-makers, entrepreneurs, and other business people.

“I will certainly subscribe, and follow what is going on,” Harald Weilnboeck, researcher at Germany’s Violence Prevention Network, told The Local. “It’s also good that a private media company like Google is involved, because a lot of the media reporting on young extremists is not helpful.”

The AVE network emerged from a unique summit hosted by Google Ideas in Dublin last year, which brought together perpetrators and victims of extremism. Relatives of those killed in 9/11 sat with former IRA bombers and discussed how extremism could be prevented in the future.

“The Summit Against Violent Extremism (SAVE) demonstrated that former perpetrators and survivors of violent extremism are powerful influencers in turning potential and existing extremists away from a violent path,” AVE said in a statement.

Weilnboeck, who works with German extremists from across the political spectrum, thinks he could learn much from those targeted by the site such as former radical Islamists in Pakistan.

“Yes, absolutely,” he said. “There are similarities between the patterns of radicalisation of young men across the world. It will be a tool for understanding radicalisation. ”

ISD director Sasha Havlicek says AVE will be more than just another talking shop, and should result in “practical outcomes.”

“For instance, a youth worker could post a request for a thousand euros in funding to pay the rent on their office for a few months and if a donor is interested they can connect through the website,” she said in a statement. “Or a community group might be looking for help in organising a social media campaign, which could be picked up by a tech company in Silicon Valley.”

The AVE network is to be run by ISD, a London-based think tank that specializes in counter-extremism. The idea is for members to “stay in touch, share ideas, collaborate, find investment and partners, and project their messages to wider audiences.”

AVE’s aim is to have 500 members by the end of the year. It already includes former members of the white power movement in the US and former Islamist extremists from Indonesia.

The Local/bk

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German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

A 50-year-old German man was jailed for life Tuesday for shooting dead a petrol station cashier because he was angry about being told to wear a mask while buying beer.

German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

The September 2021 murder in the western town of Idar-Oberstein shocked Germany, which saw a vocal anti-mask and anti-vaccine movement emerge in response to the government’s coronavirus restrictions.

The row started when 20-year-old student worker Alex W. asked the man to put on a mask inside the shop, as required in all German stores at the time.

After a brief argument, the man left.

The perpetrator – identified only as Mario N. – returned about an hour and a half later, this time wearing a mask. But as he bought his six-pack of beer to the till, he took off his mask and another argument ensued.

He then pulled out a revolver and shot the cashier in the head point-blank.

On Tuesday, the district court in Bad-Kreuznach convicted Mario N. of murder and unlawful possession of a firearm, and handed him a life sentence.

READ ALSO: Shock in Germany after cashier shot dead in Covid mask row

Under German law, people given a life sentence can usually seek parole after 15 years. His defence team had sought a sentence of manslaughter, rather than murder.

At the start of the trial, prosecutor Nicole Frohn told how Mario N. had felt increasingly angry about the measures imposed to curb the pandemic, seeing them as an infringement on his rights.

“Since he knew he couldn’t reach the politicians responsible, he decided to kill him (Alex W.),” she said.

Mario N. turned himself in to police the day after the shooting.

German has relaxed most of its coronavirus rules, although masks are still required in some settings, such as public transport.