Is it possible for someone to be a lone-wolf terrorist and also have mental health issues? Maybe I should rephrase that. Can someone be a jihadist and also out of his mind? Here’s why I’m asking.
Yesterday when a man plowed a car into 19 people in Melbourne, Australia, police were quick to say he had no known links to terror. They were also quick to say he had a history of “drug use and mental issues.” In short, the message was that this attack might not be terrorism. The driver might be a crazy person. But today we learn he is a crazy person who was rambling about the mistreatment of Muslims. From the Washington Post:
A refugee from Afghanistan who plowed a car through a teeming intersection in the heart of Australia’s second-largest city made rambling references to God, the mistreatment of Muslims and Australia’s domestic security service after he was arrested, officials said Friday.
Nineteen people were injured in the incident Thursday, three of them critically. Police identified the driver as Saeed Noori, 32, an Afghan granted entry to Australia in 2004 as a refugee. He became an Australian citizen two years later.
Actually, that’s not quite right. The attacker didn’t reference “God” he referenced “Allah” according to the Australian:
Revealing more about Saeed Noori’s comments in the hours after his arrest, Acting Police Commissioner Shane Patton said the 32-year-old Afghan-born Australian had spoken to homicide detectives from his hospital bed.
“There was something to do with Allah, some ramblings about ASIO,” Mr Patton told The Australian.
This morning, Mr Patton revealed that Mr Noori had attributed his actions to the “perceived mistreatment of Muslims,”
All of this begins to sound a bit more like the truck attacks we’ve seen in London, Nice, Berlin, and most recently in New York City. Is Saeed Noori another lone wolf terrorist? I was almost prepared to say yes, but then there is this one final detail, from the Post:
In his brief discussions with police at a hospital where he was taken after he was arrested Thursday, Noori also spoke about dreams and hearing voices, Patton said.
That sounds less like jihad and more like garden variety crazy. Which brings us back to the question I asked up top. Can someone be a terrorist and a lunatic? Granted, all terrorists seem to be missing something upstairs, but can someone with genuine mental issues also be a terrorist? At what point does the mental problem make someone not responsible for their actions? In this case, it seems that drugs may have done some real damage to Noori’s mind. But it also sounds a bit as if he was motivated by the kind of things that motivated other vehicle-driving terrorists. There are different ways for mental problems to express themselves, why did his problem lead him to attempt mass murder on the street?
I’m not sure how they’ll sort all of this out, but Noori is expected to be facing more questioning today. Perhaps authorities will gain a better understanding of just how clear-headed Noori is about his own motivations.