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Disturbing look into mind of Norway suspect

By Magnus Ranstorp, Special to CNN
Bomb and terror suspect Anders Behring Breivik leaves the courthouse in a police car in Oslo Monday.
Bomb and terror suspect Anders Behring Breivik leaves the courthouse in a police car in Oslo Monday.
  • Ranstorp: Suspect in Norway massacre doesn't fit typical portrait of right-wing extremist
  • Breivik appears to have acted after years of planning rather than impulsively
  • Ranstorp: Although he blamed Islam, he borrowed tactics from jihadist sources
  • He says Breivik's purported manifesto seems to be partly an effort to control his image

Editor's note: Magnus Ranstorp is research director of the Center for Asymmetric Threat Studies at the Swedish National Defence College. He is a member of World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Terrorism for 2011-2012 and he testified before the 9/11 Commission in 2003.

(CNN) -- To borrow the title of Sebastian Junger's book, a "perfect storm" helped lead to the extremist thinking of Norway massacre suspect Anders Behring Breivik.

Globalization, extremist websites propagating the theory of Eurabia -- the colonization and Islamization of Europe -- and role-playing games all blend into one conspiratorial outlook that captures how Breivik views the world, how he defines his enemies, the fantasy world he sought to re-create in the real world and his narcissistic view of his role in the "resistance struggle" and the legacy he would leave behind.

I've read the purported 1,500-page manifesto of Breivik for hours on end to get an insight into the man suspected of staging Friday's terrorist attacks that claimed 76 lives. The picture that emerges is rather more complex and disturbing than I initially thought.

Breivik carefully constructs a "stormy," threatening and "globalized" world that he blames for bringing refugees and foreigners into Norway and the West. It is striking how he lacked the skills to critically question his sources of information for veracity and to filter and relate facts, arguments and interpretations.

He represents the exception rather than the norm in right-wing extremist circles. Traditionally, right-wing extremism has been disorganized and impulsive, and it has often been manifested through localized hate crimes against immigrants. These sporadic acts, often committed by educational underachievers, can usually be contained and managed by police and security services.

Breivik was the polar opposite. His nine-year preparation for creating the lengthy manifesto and the violent action that he argues for and documents in minute detail contradicts our traditional view. He argues against impulsive acts of harassing foreign immigrants in favor of spectacular, well-prepared attacks.

Having only a high school degree, he claims he has self-studied for more than 16,500 hours, the equivalent of several college and graduate degrees.

The second half of the purported manifesto is a DIY-manual of how to conceal and prepare an underground terrorist cell -- almost entirely derived from open sources. It is striking how he has utilized those sources to conduct surveillance on potential targets, to protect his operational tradecraft and potential recruits against detection and to organize into so-called armed resistance groups. Of particular concern is his discussion of how to target installations such as nuclear facilities and to stage spectacular attacks.

The goal is of course to create an "awakening" of the masses -- a war between the West and the Muslim world. He believes in shock-and-awe terrorist tactics. And he knows how to utilize psychological warfare in pursuit of his goals.

Ending multiculturalism and expelling foreign influences are key goals in his vision. Yet it is remarkable how Breivik's worldview mirrors that of his principal enemies -- the jihadists' own discourse: the role of martyrs in igniting widespread support; and the struggle where the glorious past is projected onto a long-ranging promising future.

Ironically and inadvertently, Breivik copies the blueprint of do-it-yourself terrorism campaigns and the themes of "resistance" from al Qaeda-inspired sources. His DIY section is an indirect copy of the jihadist revolutionary theoretician Abu Musab al-Suri.

Besides the mind-numbing detail about weapons systems and operational art, the manifesto provides a unique insight into the mindset of a right-wing extremist and the thought processes involved in conducting a terrorist operation. Few other documents exist providing such insight into a disturbed mind.

It is evident that he has thought through every aspect of igniting the fires to generate new followers and bolster the cause. Simultaneously he is in command of the marketing aspect and of his persona as he tries to pre-empt journalists' questions.

Toward the end of the manifesto he has a lengthy Q&A dissecting every conceivable aspect of his personal background and why he acted. He is in command of his image. This is macabre theatre, and he is the central character whose mission and personal legacy is everything.

Rarely before have we been able to get into the head of an extremist in quite this way. Breivik even spells out what music he planned to listen to on his iPod as he carried out the shooting.

By providing such a detailed blueprint, Breivik has exposed his own psychological state and his weaknesses, which will provide guidance to police and government security forces seeking to prepare for and prevent future attacks.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Magnus Ranstorp.