Islamic radicalism counts many engineers among its members, with architectural engineer Mohammad Atta, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, the most notorious. But the participation of highly technically educated professionals in the movement began long before: in the 1970s in Egypt, according to the authors of "Engineers of Jihad."
During that time, three of the "significant" violent organizations were founded or led by technically educated individuals--one an agricultural engineer, one an electrical engineer and one with a doctorate in science education, the report says. Many other members of these groups were educated in technical fields.
Saadedin Ibrahim, the first sociologist to study the early Islamic radicals, did research on the members of two organizations: the Military Academy Group and al-Takfir. Of the 34 subjects Ibrahim interviewed, 29 were either graduates or university students. Of the 25 whose backgrounds he ascertained, nine were engineers, six doctors, five agronomists, two pharmacists, two students of military science and one a student of literature.
Since that time, links between radical Islam and science and engineering have spread globally, the report says.
"Engineers of Jihad" includes a disturbing 2007 chronology of Islamic terrorism at the hands of the highly technically educated:
• On June 30, Bilal Abdullah, a British citizen of Iraqi heritage and a physician, and Kafeel Ahmed, an Indian engineer, drove a Jeep Cherokee loaded with propane through the doors of Glasgow International Airport's main terminal. Ahmed, who had a PhD in computational fluid dynamics, later died from his injuries.
• On July 14, Hicham Dokkali, a Moroccan tax officer who was trained as an engineer, carried out a failed suicide attack on tourists in the city of Meknes.
• On Aug. 4, two Egyptians were stopped near a U.S. Navy base in South Carolina with pipe bombs in their vehicle. Ahmed Mohamed, an engineering graduate and teaching assistant at the University of South Florida, and Youssef Megahed, an engineering student, were indicted on federal charges of carrying explosives across state lines.
• On Sept. 5, three men were arrested for allegedly planning attacks against Americans and U.S. military facilities in Germany. One of the three, Turkish-born Adem Yilmaz, was unemployed. The two others were German converts to Islam. Daniel Schneider had worked a variety of odd jobs and undergone military training in Pakistan. The third, Fritz Gelowicz, thought to be the leader of an Islamic Jihad Union "terror cell," is the son of an engineer and had enrolled to study for a combined economics and engineering degree in Germany.