A report on NPR this morning about the two young New Jersey men arrested at New York’s JFK airport as they attempted to travel to Somalia, with the alleged intent of joining a terrorist organization, piqued our interest because of the mention of videogames.
24-year old Carlos Eduardo Almonte and 20-year old Mohamed Mahmood Alessa were arrested and charged with trying to join the terrorist group al-Shabab. The pair apparently had no ties to the group and were traveling to Somalia, by way of Egypt, with the hopes that al-Shabab would welcome them into their organization.
A New York Daily News story on the two men reported that “they often went to mall stores and played first-person-shooter computer games - assuming the terrorist role.”
A similar AP story, running on CBS News, discussed the “unsophisticated” ways in which Almonte and Alessa trained, stating, “They lifted weights, bought military-style pants, tried paintball, played violent video games and watched terrorist videos online.”
No doubt, a very high percentage of you reading this article have assumed the role of terrorists in a videogame. Does this mean we are all terrorists in training? Of course not. Obviously these two men were marching down a certain path and videogames were just one small part of the equation. Maybe they were simply playing videogames for recreation, the same as the majority of the U.S. population does, and in a bit of revisionist history, once their plans were known, it was easy to link games with terrorist training.
As an aside, NewJersey.com was quick to offer a bizarre reactionary piece, not about videogames thankfully, but on the subject of paintball and its ability to be used as “a training exercise for violent jihad.”
Picture via the NY Daily News