SOME DISTURBING NEW POTENTIAL TRENDS IN THE WAR ON TERROR
Terrorism in democracy is a disturbing subject, made more upsetting by the targets that terrorist select as they try to breakdown the legitimacy of rule of law and the nation state. During the Cold War left wing terrorists focused their attention on the agencies of government, its security apparatus, state institutions and figures of authority. The view of Cold War era-terrorism was not to do anything to isolate the masses that one day might see the light and join the great communist revolution or in the case of right wing terrorism, not join the revolution. Thus Cold War terrorists with few exceptions avoided mass casualties and on the flip-side of the coin governments protected high-value targets, made lesser targets harder to get at, and absorbed the hits.
Arab-Palestinian-focused terrorism of the period was similar in that the Palestinian extremists of the day and their supporters tried to avoid civilian casualties outside of Israel and stuck to Israeli targets at home and abroad. It came from a deep-seeded, hatred born in part from Nazism and the Holocaust, and played on old urges and grievances from a bloody historical past of a trouble region. The early trainers and supporters of anti-Israeli forces in the Middle East were, in fact, escaped Nazi war criminals who were among the very worst engaged in state-directed terror and the destruction of the Jewish people, and they simply moved to Egypt or to Syria to carry on the struggle. But Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, and ISIS have built on that hatred and changed nature of terrorism from a class struggle with more limited strategic objectives, to a total war approach where the sky is the limit. Now, all those who stand in the Islamic extremists march to the great Islamic caliphate are legitimate targets and they have taken an apocalyptic view to attaining victory. So the terrorist outrages are, in fact, outrageous, and we are horrified. The terror-generated by Islamic-inspired extremist has the result of separating us from our friends and neighbors. There are four incidents in the last week or so that deserve a degree of concern and note. On Monday of last week, there was the case of Sarah Halimi in Paris, where a neighbor reportedly praising “Allah” beat and then threw the elderly Jewish woman from her third floor window out on to the street killing her in the process. Police have said that the incident is not likely terror-related, while at least one French law-maker has taken a different view and labelled the event a hate crime. While the event might just be violent crime, it does have some of the trappings on a ‘lone wolf’ terror attack which some observers believe to be under reported as such by police. Then there is the vehicle attack in Stockholm, Sweden last Friday that left four dead and 15 injured, was carried out by a 39-year-old father of four from Uzbekistan, inspired by ISIS. It was reported that the vehicle swerved through the crowd of the capital’s shopping district seemingly intent on targeting children. Yesterday, there was an apparent attack on a top-tier German soccer team as its bus left the hotel in Dortmund, Germany, on the way to the tournament game. Three remotely-triggered bomb-blasts hit the Borussia Dortmund team bus and injuring one player. Both Islamists and anti-fascists groups have claimed responsibility for the attack. A letter left at the scene though, claiming responsibility refers to Berlin market attack, and names Angela Merkel and her government’s military deployments to fight ISIS, and was written in the name of “Allah.” Today, it was reported that the explosion at a police facility in the Turkish city of Diyarbakir was the result of a terrorist attack. Apparently, the bomb was placed in a tunnel dug beneath the compound where the death toll has risen to three. Lastly, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that Boko Haram’s use of children as suicide bombers within the Lake Chad region had spiked in 2017. Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad have witnessed 27 children suicide bombers in the first three months of this year. By way of contrast, there were nine cases in the same period last year, and 30 children employed as suicide bombers in all of 2016 and sadly, most were young girls. In summary, going back to my early point, modern terrorism is disturbing and of that there is no doubt. Lone wolf, ISIS-inspired, terrorism seems to be a continuing trend, and there is a fear that it is unreported as such, in some jurisdictions for likely political reasons or convenience. In the terrorist incidents of note, there is the continuing trend towards ISIS-inspired vehicle attacks, where the attacker goes after crowded markets, celebrations, and tourist sites, as they know have a target rich environment. The suggestion that the attacker purposely went after children and young mothers pushing baby strollers in my view is a change from the past, where previously they were just collateral damage. Needless to say as a parent this something to be wary of as you travel in open markets and crowds where you have little room to maneuver, especially with small children. We have seen terrorists use culverts, abandoned buildings, and structures to conceal roadside-bombs, but we have not seen them dig tunnels in Europe to basically mine a fixed site. That requires, time, patience, planning, access to a secure site to dig in secret, and labor. It is not a one-off operation, and security forces need to be wary of this development.
Lastly, the use of suicide bombs is not new to ISIS or Islamic-inspired terrorists. In Iraq and Syria, ISIS, as they have become more desperate, have used suicide bombers on an industrial scale, whether on foot, or vehicle-borne. Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and ISIS have in the past used donkeys, dogs, women, and even children, but not on a large-scale. The trend towards child suicide bombers, particularly, little girls, in the Lake Chad region of Africa, is a new ugly development. First, the child suicide bomber does not fit the general profile, and thus may be harder to spot. Second, security forces, and anyone for that matter, would be reluctant, to say the least, to harm a child in self-defense, even when they had little choice in the matter and split seconds count. This is a trend that terrorists will replicate elsewhere in the world if they find it effective. This should be of particular interest to those countries like Canada that want to engage in peacekeeping missions and training/mentoring operations in Africa. In Western democracies where police and security forces always try and preserve life, this may become a real challenge. I'm