Weekly thought – Terrorism…or not?
Contrary to what many may think, it is not always easy to determine when an act of terrorism has occurred. The setting off of a bomb in a market, the gunning down of people in a food court and other ‘terrifying’ acts of violence are not always evidence that we are witness to terrorism. Oh were it that easy!
This week’s school shootings in Russia (see below) are a good example. A man in his thirties returned to the school he had once attended and opened fire, killing at least 13 people, including many pupils. The motive remains to be determined: this has not prevented some, even senior Russian officials, from immediately labeling this a terrorist act.
But what do we know about the shooter? Not much. Aside from the fact that he was once a student at the school all we know is that he had spent time in a psychiatric hospital for reasons unknown. That and reports that he was wearing a T-shirt with a ‘Nazi symbol’ (swastika?) on it. Ergo, he was a right wing terrorist!
Not so fast.
There has been no new information on this case since it occurred and given the nature of Russian media we are very unlikely to get more any time soon. The psychiatric aspect is also worth looking into.
This is what often happens when an attack makes no sense (at least not to me). Why would a neo-Nazi attack his old school? What message is being sent? Is this truly an instance of terrorism?
We are also challenged when it comes to right wing extremism (RWE) as many incidents seem to come from individuals with no links to groups. When Al Qaeda or Islamic State carry out an attack and claim it we can much more easily call it terrorism. Not so for other cases.
What I am appealing for is a little more judiciousness when it comes to hauling out the ‘T’ word. We gain nothing by jumping to conclusions and would all benefit from more time to gather information and carry out better analysis. After all, what’s the hurry (media competition for being the first with breaking news notwithstanding)?
This week by the numbers
- Countries which suffered attacks: 11 – Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), India, Indonesia, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Somalia, Turkey
- Approximate number of casualties: 121 dead, 155 wounded, 46 terrorists killed
- Attacks foiled: 5
- Ideology of attackers: Islamist (93%), possibly RWE (7%)
- A suicide attack at a tuition centre in Kabul killed at least 19 people, most of them female students, and wounded another 30 on September 30. The victims are believed to have been been largely Hazara Shia. No group has claimed responsibility, though Islamic State (ISIS) in Khorasan (ISK) is a prime suspect. The casualty total later rose to 35 dead and 82 wounded.
- Belgian police killed a man in a shootout on September 28 during raids on a suspected extreme-right group thought to be planning a “terrorist attack”. The man killed, which it identified as Yannick V., was regarded as one of the leaders of the group: his social media profiles presented him as an arms collector, gold trader and history buff and in his recent posts he argued that the West was in decline and echoed the debunked conspiracy that Covid vaccines were a way to control the population. While authorities said the group wanted “to mount a form of armed resistance against the government”, they added that their alleged plans had no definite target nor date for action.
- A suspected jihadist attack in the north of Burkina Faso killed around a dozen people, mostly soldiers, on September 26. The final death toll was 11, with 18 wounded and 50 civilians listed as missing.
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
- At least 22 Ugandan soldiers were killed after two army helicopters crashed in east Congo. The Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) soldiers were on a mission to fight Allied Democratic Front (ADF) jihadis.
- ADF terrorists hacked to death 14 civilians in Kyamata, wounding two others, on October 1.
- German federal prosecutors on September 28 charged a woman with crimes against humanity and aiding and abetting genocide for allegedly having joined ISIS in Syria where she had a Yazidi slave and committed other crimes.
- India claims that Lashkar-e-Tayba terrorists were behind two attacks in Jammu and Kashmir in which two people were injured ahead of the high-profile visit of the Union Home Minister. Police arrested a suspect with five more IEDs in his possession, including three ready-to-use sticky bombs.
- On September 28 India declared the Muslim group, Popular Front of India (PFI), and its affiliates unlawful, accusing them of involvement in “terrorism” and banning them for five years. “The Popular Front of India and its associates or affiliates or fronts have been found to be involved in serious offences, including terrorism and its financing, targeted gruesome killings, disregarding the constitutional set up,” India’s home ministry said in a statement.
- Telegana police arrested three suspected Lashkar-e-Tayba (LeT) terrorists on October 2 on suspicion they were planning attacks on public processions.
- One police officer was killed and another injured when terrorists fired upon a patrol in Jammu and Kashmir on October 2.
- Four people were shot and killed on September 29 by the West Papua National Liberation Army, which the government has designated as a terrorist organisation, in Indonesia’s restive West Papua province, the latest in a string of attacks on civilians.
- Indonesia’s elite counterterrorism police killed an East Indonesian Mujahideen (MIT) terrorist on September 29 who was the last remaining member of an organisation that pledged allegiance to ISIS. Al Ikhwarisman, also known as Jaid, was a key member of the East Indonesia Mujahideen network, which has claimed responsibility for the killings of police officers and minority Christians, some by beheading,. Jaid had conducted at least 10 of the group’s executions, including the killing of four Christian farmers in May 2021.
- Turkish forces announced on September 30 that they had ‘neutralised’ (killed, captured, or wounded) four Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorists in northern Iraq in the course of Operation ‘Claw-Lock’ and arrested three others.
- Turkey claimed to have ‘neutralised’ 23 PKK terrorists in an air operation in northern Iraq on October 2.
- Israeli media stated on September 27 that Israeli police and Shin Bet Security Service were investigating an apparent attempt to derail a train in northern Israel by placing an obstacle on the railway tracks. An Arab Israeli man was detained and taken for questioning after the object was found on the railway line between the cities of Acre and Karmiel.
- Israeli forces killed three Palestinian gunmen in the West Bank town of Jenin on September 28. Israel claims they were planning an attack: the assailants opened fire and set off a bomb as commandos closed in, and were shot. Palestinian medics said 40 people were wounded.
- The Israeli government announced on October 2 that it had foiled an ISIS cell plan to attack a Nazareth Muslim school.
- Niger has decided to suspend the transit of petroleum products destined for neighboring Mali for security reasons, in the face of the threat of jihadist group.
- On September 29 Moroccan security officials arrested a suspect with links to ISIS for planning a terrorist attack.
- The Mozambican government announced on September 29 that it would commence the delivery of humanitarian assistance to around 5,000 families displaced by terrorism in Nampula province.
- Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) claimed on September 26 to have killed one Nigerian soldier and wounded four others in a nighttime raid in Borno State.
- Boko Haram (BH) attacked Nigerian troops escorting a commercial convoy in Borno on September 28, killing one soldier and wounding four others.
- A senior Nigerian military commander stated on October 2 that there were over 80,000 ex-BH terrorists in custody (NB this number includes family members).
- Chinese citizens were attacked in Karachi’s Saddar area on September 28. One died and two were wounded when a gunman pretending to be a patient entered a dental clinic.
- A suicide bomber on September 27 attacked a Pakistani military convoy in a restive tribal district in the country bordering Afghanistan, injuring at least 21 soldiers.
- At least one person was killed and 20 injured – ten critically – in blast in Balochistan’s Kohlu market on September 30.
- A Pakistani soldier was killed in a cross border terrorist attack from Afghanistan on September 29.
- Pakistani counter terrorism (CT) officials noted on October that two terrorists killed the day before in Karachi and who were planning a suicide attack but were killed by CT forces were tied to ISK.
- A gunman opened fire at a school in central Russia on September 26, killing at least 13 people and injuring 21 before killing himself. A video posted online showed the gunman lying dead on the floor wearing a T-shirt with a Nazi symbol and a balaclava.
- Somalia confirmed on September 27 the use of Turkish drones in the recent offensive against Al Shabaab (AS) terrorists in central and southern Somalia.
- The Somali National Army (SNA) claimed it had killed 11 AS terrorists in an overnight operation in the central region on September 26-27.
- AS killed a prominent Hiraan elder, Elmi Hagar Gure, on September 29.
- Mogadishu’s Police Commissioner was killed in a roadside bomb, likely the work of AS, 35km north of Mogadishu on September 30. Other casualties are expected, including some of the commissioner’s bodyguards.
- AS killed 12 civilians getting water from a well on September 30 in the drought-stricken Gedo region.
- The SNA claimed on October 1 that it, with international help, had killed Abdulkadir Nadir, a top AS commander in what is described as a ‘huge success’ for the country.
- The Internal Security Forces of North and East Syria (Asayish) announced on September 29 that they had arrested two ISIS suspects in the western countryside of Deir ez-Zor.
- Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) confiscated a large ISIS weapons cache near Tal Hamis on September 28.
- On September 27 Turkish media announced that the country’s security forces had arrested 24 ISIS terrorist suspects in Istanbul and Mersin.
- On September 27 one police officer was killed and two wounded when Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorists attacked a police guest house in Mersin. The two female PKK terrorists blew themselves up. Turkey arrested nine suspected PKK members in Mersin – three days later.