The Would-Be Terrorist Next Door

New details about Abdulla Ahmed Ali—the convicted ringleader of a plot to blow up seven British airplanes—paint a chilling picture of a would-be terrorist who, unbeknownst to those around him, dreamed of jihad since his teens. Ali hailed from a middle-class family that sent all but one of their eight children to college, yet from his teenage years, Ali said that he began to dream of jihad. Violent images from the Bosnian war profoundly disturbed him, and a trip to Pakistan in 2002 to aid refugees fleeing the conflict in Afghanistan further radicalized his beliefs. Ali, active in the antiwar movement, said he eventually became disillusioned with the potential of aid work and protests to affect real change. Still, he said he mostly kept his radical thoughts to himself, and a man who knew him for several years prior to his arrest told The Guardian that he doubted even his father and brother knew the lengths of Ali’s extremism.