“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 by reminding us to stay vigilant. Mainstream news is filled with so many stories of global power tensions, epidemic levels of the Coronavirus, and domestic rioting within the USA. It could be easy to simply diminish our vigilance against potential terrorist threats acting as if they did not exist. It would be easy to conclude that terrorists have lost interest and gone home. We do so at our own peril. There is so much more than meets the eye.
It is difficult to stay alert when threat levels appear to be decreasing around the world, appear being the operative word. It is far too easy to just stop looking around, pop in your ear-buds, stare at your smart-phone, 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 staunch believer in rudimentary situational awareness. It can spare us from many of life’s possible terrorist and criminal attacks. It is during these seasons of perceived reductions in terrorist violence that we need to practice situational awareness skills. Doing so can be a major factor in contributing to our survival and the survival of our families when terrorist events once again begin to up-tick in our communities.
It would be a mistake for us to think that terrorism is on the decline because it has not happened to us directly. A quick glimpse at specific activities around the world will enable us to see that the players are still the same. Their actions are signs to us of what kinds of operations to expect to see locally in the near future if we present ourselves vulnerable. Let’s take a look at global terrorism since March 2020.
The following representative list is simply a review of terrorist events that have gone largely unreported by mainstream media.
• Terror incidents in March included Islamic State gunmen killing at least 32 people in an attack on a ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan.
• Islamic State also claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing and mass shooting at a Sikh Gurdwara in Kabul later that month which left at least 25 dead.
• Other terror incidents in March included rocket attacks in Taji, Iraq, which left 3 dead including British military medic, Lance Corporal Brodie Gillon. Kataib Hezbollah is suspected of being behind the attack. Boko Haram militants killed 92 soldiers in Chad and 47 in Nigeria.
• In April, 52 people were killed in Mozambique after Islamic militants killed villagers. In France, a knife-attacker who killed 2 people was charged with killings “connected to a terrorist undertaking.” Also, 20 people were killed at a military base in Mali in what was described as a “terrorist” attack by their government.
• In late May and early June 2020, two ambush-style attacks occurred against security personnel and law enforcement officers in California. The attacks left 2 dead and injured 3 others. The attacks began on May 29, when a drive-by shooting occurred in front of a federal courthouse in Oakland, resulting in the death of a security officer contracted with the Federal Protective Service. Over a week later on June 6, Santa Cruz County sheriff’s deputies were shot at and also attacked with improvised explosive devices. One of them died as a result.
• On 13 June 2020, Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) carried out massacres in Monguno, Nganzai, Borno State, and northeastern Nigeria, killing more than 60 people.
• On 29 June 2020, Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) militants attacked the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) building in Karachi with grenades and by firing indiscriminately. At least 3 security guards and a police sub-inspector were killed, while 7 people were injured during the attack. Police reported that they killed all 4 attackers within 8 minutes.
• On 21 July 2020, a hostage situation took place in Lutsk, Volyn Oblast, Ukraine. Maksym Kryvosh seized a BAZ A079 bus and barricaded himself and 13 passengers inside at the Teatralna Square. The crisis was eventually resolved with the release of the hostages and Kryvosh’s arrest.
The terror attacks listed above are not intended to be a comprehensive list. However, they clearly show that terrorism has continued worldwide during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In March, the United Nations (UN) Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team, which tracks the global jihadi terror threat, released a report to the UN General Assembly about an ISIS resurgence. See relevant excerpts and comments below.
“ISIS has begun to reassert itself in both the Syrian Arab Republic and Iraq, mounting increasingly bold insurgent attacks, calling and planning for the breakout of ISIS fighters in detention facilities.”
“Freed of the responsibility of defending territory, there was a notable increase in attacks in previously quiet areas held by the government of the Syrian Arab Republic around the country.”
The UN team cited a few factors behind its findings. One factor is that the reduction of U.S. forces in Syria has raised concerns about their security force’s ability to control detained ISIS fighters and their families. These families have a population that exceeds 100,000 people.
A second factor cited is the concern of foreign terrorist fighters. The UN team reported that up to two-thirds of the 40,000 aspirants who joined the ISIS caliphate are still alive. “This is expected to aggravate the global threat posed by ISIS, and possibly al Qaeda, for years to come,” the team wrote.
A third factor is the concern of how ISIS-affiliated groups around the world are jumpstarting operations. “In West Africa, the combined efforts of the affiliates are threatening the stability of fragile member states in the region,” the team wrote. For example, it cited attacks and arms gathering by the ISWAP group in the Lake Chad Basin region (near the intersectional border of Nigeria), Chad, and Cameroon.
Security expert Kabir Adamu has claimed that ISWAP is one of the three most significant terror groups in the Lake Chad Basin. Adamu is managing director and founder of Beacon Consulting, and a former chair of the ASIS International Abuja Chapter in Nigeria. According to Adamu, the other two significant terror groups are Boko Haram and a shadowy group sometimes called the Bakoura Faction. Adamu explained that the activities of these three terror groups are a major factor contributing to the insecurity situation in northeast Nigeria.
For instance, Adamu says, “ISWAP continues targeting security forces and civilians with various types of attacks, such as shootings, facility intrusions, abductions, and IED-related attacks, including road planted and body worn, as well as vehicle conveyed.”
There are many symptoms of terrorism, such as people dying and resources being wasted.
Here are some helpful perspectives to remember:
• We exert little control over deaths caused by terrorists. 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. Fear 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 other causes of death. 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. For comparison, around 120 people die in road accidents in the United States every day. This means the annual death toll from terrorism in the US (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 modern human civilization. It is important to recognize that possibility. Being reminded of the passion that many terrorists carry in their radicalized state is key. This helps us deal with this global cancer that continues to take many lives each year. It robs nations’ 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 sicknesses, 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, myself 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. In this sense, terrorism is leading us to stay focused.
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.
International Day of Victims of Terrorism: Friday, 21 August 2020…
UNOCT Virtual Counterterrorism Week 2020: Strategic and Practical Challenges of Countering Terrorism in a Global Pandemic Environment… https://www.state.gov/UNOCT-Virtual-Counterterrorism-Week-Remarks
For your comments or questions about any of our digests please feel free to write to me at: [email protected]