“Only the unknown frightens men. But once a man has faced the unknown, that terror becomes the known.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery
“In the right circumstances, terror is good. It makes you focus.” Eddie the Eagle
“We know that our life of freedom is stronger than terror.” Angela Merkel
In this week’s edition of “More than Meets the Eye,” I’d like to get back to my roots as I write a reminder for us. With the mainstream news filled with so many stories of global power tensions, epidemic levels of the Coronavirus coming out of China, continuing struggles in Syria, Iran, Iraq and Libya, it could be easy to diminish our vigilance against potential terrorist threats. It would be easy to conclude that terrorists have lost interest and gone home. We would do so at our own peril.
It is difficult to stay alert when threat levels appear to be lessening around the world. It is too easy to just stop looking around, pop in your ear-buds, relax and enjoy life as if nothing bad could ever happen. If you’ve read even a little of what I write each week, you will know that I am a firm believer that rudimentary situational awareness can spare us from most of life’s possible terrorist, or even blatant criminal attacks. It is during these seasons of perceived reductions in terrorist violence that practicing our situational awareness skills can be a major factor in contributing to our survival when terrorist events once again begin to up-tick in our communities.
It would be simple for us to think that terrorism is on the decline because it has not happened to us directly. That would be a mistake. A quick tour around the world for a glimpse of specific activities will enable us to see that the players are still the same and that their actions are signs to us of what kinds of operations we may expect to see in our parts of the world in the near future, should the targets present themselves vulnerable. Let’s take a look at global terrorism since January 1, 2020.
On January 3, 2020 the year started early with its first terrorist attack of note. It was perpetrated by a Salafist in Villejuif, France. A man stabbed three people in Villejuif, a suburb of Paris, killing one person and wounding two others. The attacker was shot dead by police. The attacker was identified as Nathan Chiasson, a follower of Salafism, an extremist sect of Islam.
On January 6, 2020, in Gamboru, Borno State, Nigeria, a bomb exploded on a bridge in Gamboru which links it to Fotokol in Cameroon. Thirty eight people were killed, and at least thirty five people were injured in the attack. Both Boko Haram and Islamic State are active in the region.
On January 9, 2020: Filingue Department, Niger. Battle of Chinagodrar: Militants on motorbikes and in cars attacked a military outpost at Chinagodrar in the Tillabéri Region near the border with Mali. Eighty nine soldiers were killed, and six were injured in the attack. Seventy seven militants were killed with help of French airstrikes. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack and released photos of the assault.
On January 10, 2020: Quetta, Pakistan… A suicide bombing in a Taliban-run mosque killed fourteen civilians and a police officer. Nineteen others were injured in the attack. Islamic State claimed responsibility.
On January 18, 2020: Ma’rib, Yemen… A mosque on the grounds of a military training camp was targeted with drones and missiles during evening prayers when dozens of people were inside praying. One hundred eleven Yemeni soldiers and five civilians were killed and one hundred forty eight became injured in the attack. The attack was blamed on the Houthis.
On January 18, 2020: Afgooye, Somalia. A suicide car bomber targeted a place where Turkish engineers and Somali police were having lunch. Four people were killed in the attack, and twenty were injured. Most of the casualties were police officers. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility.
On January 31, 2020: Belfast Harbor, Ireland. On the day of Brexit, the Police Service of Northern Ireland was given two anonymous tips that a bomb inside a lorry would be on a ferry heading from Belfast Harbor to Cairnryan, Scotland. On 5 February 2020, the bomb was found inside a lorry in Lurgan, County Armagh. The police believe the Continuity IRA was responsible for the failed bomb attack.
On February 2, 2020: London. A man stabbed three people in Streatham, London, seriously wounding one. The attacker was shot dead by Metropolitan Police authorized firearms officers outside the doors of a “Boots” store on Streatham High Road just after 14:00. The attacker, identified as Sudesh Mamoor Faraz Amman, was recently released from prison, after serving a sentence for terror offenses. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.
On February 4, 2020: Male, Maldives. Two Chinese tourists and an Australian were injured after being stabbed by Islamic State sympathizers in Hulhumale, Male, Maldives.
On February 6, 2020: Jerusalem, Twelve IDF soldiers were injured in a car ramming attack in central Jerusalem, one seriously injured. The attacker escaped and was caught later during the day.
This is a total of ten significant terrorist, ideology-driven attacks, not a high number necessarily, but enough to produce the deaths of two hundred sixty three human beings. Two hundred forty nine lives have also been affected by injuries. That is about eleven people killed or injured by terrorists everyday so far this year. That is no insignificant number of peoples lives destroyed by senseless violence. According to a recent CNBC report:
- The total number of deaths from terrorism declined for the fourth consecutive year in 2018, falling by 15.2% on the year to 15,952 — a 53% reduction since its peak in 2014.
- The primary driver of the reduction in deaths has been a fall in the intensity of conflict in the Middle East, and military successes against terrorist groups like ISIS and Boko Haram.
- Afghanistan recorded the highest number of terror-related deaths and incidents, with more than 7,000 fatalities and 1,400 terrorist incidents in 2018.
When it comes to the most dangerous countries in the world today, Afghanistan once again tops the list followed by Syria, South Sudan, then Yemen and rounding out the top five is Iraq. All of the top five are in some state of conflict. We can thank the Lord for a decrease in the numbers of deaths around the world, but we need not get complacent.
A lot of people die each year in terrorist attacks. We should keep this fact in front of us. There are important perspectives listed here which we should remember as well.
- We exert little control over deaths caused by terrorists, as they usually come out of nowhere to impact the lives of many people. It is not only the killings that should concern us, but also the manufacturing of fear in the lives of thousands, a fear that steals life from so many.
- The deaths caused by terrorism make up a small percentage of the deaths in the world. We however, have the potential for much more control over the other deaths. For instance, an estimated 7 million deaths occur each year as a result of smoking; 4.7 million from obesity; and 3 million from outdoor air pollution. The dominance of terrorism in the daily news cycle can mean that we lose perspective of this. For comparison, around 120 people die in road accidents in the United States every day. This means the annual death toll from terrorism in most years is equivalent to half a day a year or less, compared to the loss of life on the country’s roads.
- There is a cause of terrorism, not merely a symptom. Terrorists want something specific. What they want can most likely not be afforded by human civilization. It is important to recognize that possibility. Being reminded of the passionate pursuits that many terrorists carry in their radicalized state is key to dealing with this global cancer that continues to take many lives each year and rob the wealth of nations from resources which could be used to better the lives of their citizens.
The amount of money being spent on protecting people from terrorism is staggering. Some estimates are in the range of $34 billion a year. That amount of money could feed a lot of people, treat a lot of sickness, build a lot of houses and educate a lot of children. That $34 billion represents the amount spent every year to keep people safe from terrorists.
Somewhere along the way, Western nations need to address the source of terrorism, not simply the symptoms. That will be a subject for another edition of “More than Meets the Eye,” because entire books have been written about it and every analyst, this analyst included, has his or her own distinct opinion of the source of terrorism.
Terrorist tactics continue to evolve, and we must keep pace. Terrorists seek sophisticated means of attack, including chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive weapons, as well as cyber. Threats may come from abroad or be homegrown.
We must be vigilant against new types of terrorist recruitment, by engaging communities at risk of being targeted by these recruiters. We can be aware of what possibilities exist concerning either terrorist or criminal element attacks in our communities. The government has a program called, see something, say something. Learn how to report suspicious activity. You would be amazed at how many people do not know how or what to report if they see something that looks out of the ordinary.
Become a resource for your community. It would be easy to become a valued resource for your community to help protect it from potential threats. There are programs such as: Crime Stoppers, Neighborhood Watch and Project Safe Neighborhoods.
TEHRAN, IRAN: AMIR KABIR UNIVERSITY STUDENTS CHANTING: “Be afraid, we’re all together”… https://www.ncr-iran.org/en/news/iran-protests/27402-latest-news-in-brief-february-16-2020
Syria war: Government will pay ‘heavy price’ for attacking Turkish troops… https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-51458008
For your comments or questions about any of our digests please feel free to write to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org