5 alarming terror trends and what they mean for counter-terror strategies
With Counter Terror Awareness Week upon us (courtesy of the National Counter Terrorism Security Office), we ve examined the latest trends in terror tactics and the changing nature of the amorphous global threat. For what they lack in resources compared to the states against which they pit themselves, terrorists must compensate with the element of surprise. Small wonder that terrorists who don t all take the same master s degree in how to be a terrorist aren t consistent in methods or targets, although trends do emerge as successful attacks inspire copycat plots.
Some attacks are more imaginative than others, often in inverse relation to the devastation caused. Being unpredictable is all too easy when potential targets are almost limitless, given that Islamic extremists essentially view society as a whole as the enemy. Any target any people (Muslims included), buildings or other infrastructure is fair game. When they re happy to sacrifice themselves too then they re not even constrained by the need of an escape route. Here are five trends in terrorism that have become apparent this year and the implications for counter-terror approaches. Wildfires in Israel Israel has been hit by a rash of wildfires since last Monday and several Israeli politicians including the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are proclaiming it a new terror tactic. This a major wave of arson Terrorism in every sense of the word, Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home party in the government said, according to Israeli media. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that any fire caused by arson or incitement to arson is terrorism in every sense of the word, and we will treat it as such. Israeli police have arrested several Arabs on suspicion of arson.
Israel s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman says authorities have evidence that at least 17 cases of the 110 recorded outbreaks of fires, which have destroyed hundreds of homes and causing millions of dollars of damage were attributable to arson. Whether the arson if it even is arson can be defined properly as terror attacks, we don t know that would largely depend on the motives. Either way, I does alert security services within and beyond Israel to the prospect of a new form of environmental sabotage. Though terrorists favour major human casualties as it provides them a bigger psychological impact, train stations, shopping centres, sports stadia are well guarded, monitored by CCTV and so on. Forests, woods, agricultural holdings, on the other hand, would represent the soft underbelly. And while deaths from wildfires are rare and such attacks would lack the dramatic instant impact of a bomb or gun rampage, they are immensely destructive. Israeli health authorities said more than a hundred people had been treated for smoke inhalation and other injuries across the country, while Some 75,000 residents of Haifa were evacuated as whole neighborhoods were hit by the blazes. Should this prove to be a problem, it s hardly practical to guard every inch of the forest with people or cameras. More innovative solutions would be needed.
Far-right threat Pointing to our Burkean preference for evolution over revolution British thinkers have often considered their country to be better insulated against extreme ideologies of the left and right that convulsed continental Europe through the 30s and 40s. However, a rise in hate crime in the wake of the Brexit vote, the victory of Donald Trump and the brutal murder of a sitting MP generated anxiety that the far-right threat is being grossly underestimated. Over the past 12 months, there have been indications that the threat from the extreme right wing could be increasing and we are alive to this, Neil Basu, senior national coordinator for counter-terrorism policing and deputy assistant commissioner, said this week. Anti-radicalisation scheme Prevent has reported a 73.5% rise in the last year in the number of referrals linked to the far right. Currently just under 10% of all Prevent referrals relate to the extreme right wing, and we have put programmes in place to support those at risk of being radicalised, said Basu. Last week jurors at the Old Bailey heard how Thomas Mair, who was sentenced to a whole-life term for the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox, was an avid reader of Nazi propaganda and a regular visitor to neo Nazi websites. Mair shot and stabbed the 41-year-old mother of two as she arrived for a constituency surgery in Birstall, West Yorkshire. Nevertheless, Basu insisted that The overriding threat remains from Daesh-inspired groups. Internet of Things No household or everyday object, however mundane, is safe from the digital revolution.
Whether most people truly want a smart toaster, smart clothing or a smart toothbrush remains to be seen, but it s clear that the number of things being connected to computer networks is growing exponentially. And this applies just as much to buildings and the urban environment around us. From trains to shopping centres, data is being generated in ever greater volumes with huge potential for energy saving, easing congestion and generally making cities more effiecient and our lives easier. It s also multiplying the vectors of attack for cyber terrorists and we re ill prepared for it, according to Advent IM founder Mike Gillespie. If you ve got a CCTV system going back 10 or 15 years, how old is the security management software controlling it? We re patching IT systems on a weekly basis for Windows-based vulnerabilities. We re seeing firmware vulnerabilities discovered on a daily if not hourly basis. Yet how much of our security system is being maintained in a secure manner? We re trying to plug holes because the planning wasn t in place for the new cyber landscape that we ve entered.
And with the internet of things, the pace of change is getting faster and faster. embedded content Vehicular attack When Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel drove a HGV truck through the crowds celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, France on 14 July 2016, it demonstrated brutally that vehicles can be every bit as destructive as bullets and bombs. Leaving 86 dead and injuring 434, it tragically highlighted the need for robust physical barriers in public spaces. Naturally, people don t want to feel like they re surrounded by a militarised ring of steel, so the challenge for authorities is to make crowded public spaces harder to encroach by vehicles without ruining the appeal that draws people to plazas and the like in the first place. The growing importance of aesthetically pleasing crash tested street furniture forms the subject of a Marshalls-sponsored trend report we re publishing soon. Self-starter terror cells Intelligence services always had a tough job on their hands discovering terror plots before they happened. Identifying communications and links between Al Qaeda central command in so far as a diffuse network even had a central command and terror cells was a tricky job. Things got tougher still following the spate of attacks in France and Germany, however, as it signalled a new kind of terrorist. If the Al Qaeda model was like a franchise then these attacks were simply homages to the central idea of ISIS.
Recognising the power of their ideology ISIS effectively encouraged sympathisers within Europe to become self-starters no need for contact with, or direction from, ISIS HQ at all.
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