Weekly thought: is political violence in the West inevitable?
We are living through some scary times according to some. Hate is on the rise. People are getting all riled up, including online, and some of this nastiness is manifesting itself in the real world.
So, how worried should we be? If you believe the Globe and Mail’s Andrew Coyne, very. In a recent op-ed piece he wrote, among other things, “Some time in the not too distant future, when the first Canadian politician has been assassinated since Pierre Laporte, we will all look back and wonder what we could have done to prevent it.” He is referring largely to what we call right-wing extremism (RWE), a much more accurate term than the current Canadian Liberal government’s meaningless use of the phrase ‘ideologically-motivated violent extremism’ (IMVE).
Wow, that sounds serious. And Coyne is a good essayist.
Me? I am a little less worried for several reasons. As I have noted on many earlier occasions, the vast, vast majority of idiots who say or post idiotic things online never do a damn thing about it, either because they are cowards, incompetent or not really that angry. It is thus far from certain that we will see any spike in actual violent attacks any time soon.
Secondly, I know that my former colleagues at CSIS – the Canadian Security Intelligence Service – are actively investigating this threat and will alert the RCMP – the Royal Canadian Mounted Police – of any individual(s) who seem to be edging into possible acts.
Thirdly, terrorism on a global scale is still overwhelmingly dominated by Islamist extremists – jihadis to some. That was also the #1 threat when I worked in counterterrorism at CSIS and I have a hard time believing that situation has changed so drastically in seven years.
There are, of course, no guarantees in life and Mr. Coyne could be right. Still, at this juncture, given Canadian history and recent events, an increase in politically-motivated violence is not a surety.
Or at least I don’t think it is. If I turn out to be wrong I will be the first to admit it.
Now, about those jihadis…
This week by the numbers
- Countries which suffered attacks: 13 (Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, DRC, Germany, Iraq, Lebanon, Mali, Mozambique, Palestine/Israel, Somalia, Syria, Yemen)
- Approximate number of casualties (dead/wounded/terrorists killed): 182/61/405
- Ideology of attackers: Islamist (89%); nationalist (3%); other (8%)
- At least eight people, including two employees, were killed on September 5 after a suicide bomber detonated explosives near the entrance of the Russian embassy in Kabul. Four Afghans were also killed. The incident occurred when a Russian diplomat came out to people waiting outside to call out the names of the candidates for a visa. ISIS in Khorasan (ISK) later claimed the attack.
- On September 11 National Resistance Forces in Afghanistan claimed to have repelled a Taliban’s attack and killed dozens of Taliban fighters
- Belgium’s Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office ordered the arrest of Smail and Ibrahim Farisi before the start of the 2016 Brussels terrorist attacks trial: the pair is suspected of sheltering Khalid El Bakraoui, the suicide bomber who carried out the Maelbeek metro station attack
- At least 35 civilians were killed and 37 wounded as a convoy of vehicles carrying supplies in Burkino Faso’s restive northern region struck an IED. The attack was likely the work of Al Qaeda (AQ) or Islamic State (ISIS)-linked groups.
- Attacks by suspected jihadists killed nine people, mostly civilians, in the north of the country on September 6.
- According to military officials in Cameroon armed separatists killed at least six people and wounded nine when they attacked a bus on a highway in the country’s troubled Southwest region on September 6.
Democratic Republic of Congo
- Suspected CODECO militiamen carrying guns and knives killed at least 15 people and burned hundreds of houses during an attack overnight late last week on a market in a town in eastern Congo.
- Eight people went on trial on September 5 in a special French terrorism court accused of helping an attacker who drove a truck into a crowded beachfront on Bastille Day six years ago, killing 86 people (among whom were 33 foreign nationals). During a planned two-and-half months of court proceedings in Paris, survivors and those mourning loved ones will recount the horrors inflicted in the southern French resort of Nice on the night of July 14, 2016. Shortly after the end of a fireworks display, the truck careered through the crowds for two kilometers like a snow plow, hitting person after person. The final death toll was included 15 children and adolescents, while 450 others were injured. The attacker, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, was killed by police soon after. ISIS claimed responsibility for the carnage, although French prosecutors said that while Bouhlel had been inspired by the extremist group’s propaganda, investigators found no evidence that IS orchestrated the attack.
- France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor ordered that 12 far right extremists should face trial over a ‘plot’ to attack President Macron in 2018. The prosecutor said the far-right group held meetings and carried out research and training and “developed a project of violent action” against the president. During their meetings, the idea of burning mosques, murdering migrants, kidnapping officials and manufacturing explosives was reportedly raised and group members also participated in paramilitary training and held discussions it described as showing “racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-republicanism and neo-Nazism”.
- A German court sentenced an ISIS terrorist to ten years in prison on September 7 for war crimes and murder committed in Syria, including the beating of a prisoner who later died in custody.
- German police shot and killed a man armed with a knife who attacked at least one person at a train station in Ansbach, a Bavarian town close to Nuremberg on September 9. Police are investigating a possible terrorist motive as the man shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ during the attack.
- ISIS terrorists kidnapped a shepherd in Diyala Province on September 5.
- Kurdish Peshmerga forces announced on September 8 that they had destroyed an ISIS hideout on Qarachox Mountain, seizing weapons, explosives, and other equipment used for making explosives: the soldiers suffered no casualties.
- Iraqi officials re-opened the ancient Hatra ruins to tourism on September 10. In 2015, ISIS released a video showing its militants destroying a series of reliefs, firing at them and hacking away at a statue with a pickaxe.
- Iraq has killed more than 10 ISIS suspects, including top leaders, in airstrikes in recent days.
- Four Turkish soldiers were killed in northern Iraq fighting PKK terrorists on September 11.
- Two senior ISIS commanders were killed in an Iraqi air strike in the Hamrin Mountain range on September 10.
- Greater Manchester Police arrested a man on September 8 in connection with the Irish Republican Army’s (IRA) 1996 bombing of Manchester city centre: the 3,300lb bomb caused massive damage and more than 200 injuries, but no fatalities.
- A bomb detonated outside of a Hezbollah-backed Lebanese minister’s home on September 8 in the eastern Bekaa valley – no report on casualties
- The German military resumed its reconnaissance mission in Mali on September 6 after a suspension of more than three weeks following a spat with Mali’s government over flight clearances. This is part of the United Nations MINUSMA mission established in 2013 to support foreign and local troops battling Islamist terrorists.
- Jihadists affiliated to ISIS seized a town in northern Mali after bitter fighting with local rebels and rival militants linked to Al-Qaeda on September 6: casualty counts were not available.
- Reports emerged that somewhere between 30 and 45 civilians were killed by terrorists affiliated to AQ and ISIS in northeastern Mali this week.
- An Italian nun was killed on September 7 during a jihadist attack in northern Mozambique in which a church, a hospital and two schools were destroyed. Six others were beheaded by the ISIS-linked jihadis. Mozambican President Nyusi confirmed the attacks on several villages in Erati and Memba districts in the northern province of Nampula, adding that the attacks were a cover for other crimes, including “acts of pure opportunism” in some villages where local youths torched 13 houses and fled. He added: “So, these youths are thieves, opportunists and criminals on the path to terrorism. They took advantage of a moment when the population was afraid, and burnt down houses, ensuring that the people ran away, while they stayed behind to steal goods”. The President also stated that the terrorists’ attempts to recruit more members were ‘unsuccessful’.
- On September 8 the European Union (UN) approved €15 million in support for SAMIM, the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) counter terrorist military mission in Mozambique.
- Scores of Boko Haram (BH) jihadists drowned in a river in northeast Nigeria’s Borno state while fleeing from ground and aerial attacks from Nigerian troops on September 5.
- The UN reported on September 7 that Nigerian security had detained 275 children – 260 boys and 15 girls aged 11-17 in cells with adult inmates over suspicion of having ties to BH terrorists. In many cases the children were arrested with little or no evidence, and some remained detained for periods ranging from one week to eight years.
- The Nigerian Army announced on September 8 that it had killed more than 250 Islamist terrorists from BH and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) in military operations over the past two weeks.
- Pakistani security forces raided a militant hideout in a former Taliban stronghold near the border with Afghanistan on September 5, triggering a shootout that killed five soldiers and four insurgents. The Taliban accused the military of breaking a fragile ceasefire.
- Law enforcement agencies in Karachi claimed to have arrested two terrorists belonging to the outlawed Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on September 11.
- Israeli forces arrested 25 terrorist suspects in the West Bank on September 6 and 7. During the operation, an improvised explosive device (IED) was thrown and shots were fired at the soldiers, who responded with live fire: the man who threw the IED was killed.
- A Palestinian man carrying a makeshift firearm and two bombs was arrested by officers in Jaffa on September 8, and later admitted he sought to commit a major terror attack in Tel Aviv. According to police, the 19-year-old resident of Nablus, with no permit to enter Israel, aroused the suspicion of officers of the elite police reconnaissance unit Yasam near Jaffa’s clock tower, a major landmark and tourist attraction. He was detained and found to be carrying a ‘Carlo’ submachine gun and two pipe bombs filled with nails. Police said he had been taken for further questioning by the Shin Bet security agency.
- Israeli PM Lapid stated on September 9 that Shin Bet had foiled ‘hundreds’ of terrorist attacks in 2021, including shooting attacks, explosives, suicide bombings, and kidnappings.
- Somalia’s special forces attacked an Al-Shabaab (AS) “court” near the capital on September 5, killing a number of terrorists. The forces also reportedly rescued people held at an AS “prison”.
- A landmine killed one child and injured two others in Hiraan on September 5.
- A bomb blast killed at least one soldier and injured nine others on September 6 at a bus station in Barawe, a coastal city in southern Somalia. No immediate claim of responsibility.
- At least ten people were killed in heavy fighting between AS and anti-AS militia in the Hiiraan region on September 6.
- Following last week’s attack by AS on a food truck convoy in which 22 were killed local militias retaliated on September 6 and killed 13 terrorists.
- On September 9 the Somali army killed an AS commander named ‘Arab’ and wounded ten others in an attack on a taxation post the terrorists were using as an extortion centre near Mogadishu.
- The Somali army claimed to have killed ‘almost six terrorists’ operation in the mountainous region of Hiran on September 9. Local civilians were said to have assisted.
- Somali troops killed an AS ‘commander’ known as Carab 95 km SW of Mogadishu on September 10, and rescued several civilian hostages.
- Police in Puntland’s Nugal region warned on September 11 of planned AS attacks on several Puntland cities. The commander of the police in that region warned that AS was actively trying to recruit civilians in Garowe to commit insecurity acts and urged the public to assist security agencies and report anything suspicious.
- On September 11 the Somali Army claimed to have dealt ‘a major blow’ to Al Shabaab, having killed more than 100 terrorists over the past few weeks.
- A Somali soldier and a girl were wounded in a suspected AS grenade attack in Beledweyne on September 11.
- On September 7 the US Central Command announced that raids on an ISIS camp in Syria had yielded hundreds of arrests. The raid, characterised as a “full clearing operation,” is the largest carried out at the al-Hol camp since May 2021.
- Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) stated on September 8 that two of their fighters were killed and six jihadists arrested following clashes in Al Hol camp where a security operation was underway. The SDF noted that “two women and five men masquerading as women” were involved in the attack on SDF fighters in the camp.
- At least seven fighters from a Kurdish-led force were killed on September 11 in two ISIS attacks in eastern Syria
- Togo’s parliament extended for six months a state of emergency in the far north of the country, which has been plagued by incursions by jihadist groups: at least five attacks have occurred since November 2021.
- Turkish authorities arrested a YPG terrorist during an operation at Istanbul Airport: the woman had received receiving training in PKK camps in Syria and Iraq.
- Turkish President Erdogan announced on September 8 that security and police forces had captured a ‘senior’ ISIS official, Abu Zeyd (Bashar Hattab Ghazal al-Sumaidai) at an unspecified place on an unspecified date.
- The United Kingdom (UK) Home Office released data on September 9 showing a record number of child terror arrests in UK during the lockdown from June 2021 to June 2022 after school shutdowns sparked by COVID. There are worries about at-risk children being radicalised during the pandemic.
- Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) killed 21 members of a UAE-trained ‘separatist group’ on September 6: six AQAP terrorists also died in the attack.