Weekly thought – overuse of the ‘T’ word
As the ‘war on terrorism’ enters its third decade – has it really been THAT long? – we continue to see the expanding use of what I have to come to refer to as the ‘T’ word. In some cases it is the right term to use; in others not so much. Let’s look at the latter cases.
- Turkey continues to call followers of the eponymous Gulenist political movement, Muhammed Fethullah Gülen, terrorists. Turkey claims that Gulen inspired the 2016 coup plotters, including members of the miltary;
- Russian President Putin has called Ukraine’s counteroffensive against occupying Russian forces ‘acts of terrorism’;
- Nigeria muddies the waters by continuing to call run-of-the-mill bandits ‘terrorists’; and
- Many in the West insist on calling violent incels ‘terrorists’.
None of this is helpful. We as consumers of information need to remind our commentators and heads of state that the use of the word terrorism must be limited to those planning serious acts of violence in the furtherance of a political, religious or ideological aim. Anything less than that should be seen as other (i.e. non-terrorist) forms of violence or protest (non violent).
Calling too many things terrorism is simply bad analysis and bad politics.
This week by the numbers
- Countries which suffered attacks: 9 (Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Israel/Palestine, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Somalia, Yemen
- Approximate number of casualties (dead/wounded/terrorists killed): 40/14/168
- Ideology of attackers: Islamist (92%), nationalist (8%)
- Attacks/casualties tied to RWE: 0
- The Taliban claimed on September 14 that its forces had killed 40 members of the National Resistance Front (NRF), including four commanders, in the northern Afghanistan province of Panjshir.
- According to a news item on September 15, the Taliban summarily executed members of a resistance group fighting against their harsh rule in Afghanistan. A video filmed and shared on the terrorists’ group chats shows a group of five blindfolded fighters who have their hands tied behind them before they are executed by cheering members of the Taliban. In a move that echoes ISIS’s social media strategy, Taliban shared their battlefield atrocities to spread fear among their enemies.
- A suicide bomber killed one person and wounded three in the provincial capital of Takhar province in NE Afghanistan on September 17
- Sydney terrorist leader Hamdi Alqudsi was found guilty on September 15 of planning attacks in Australia in 2014. Alqudsi was the leader of a terrorist group called the ‘Shura’ from August to December 2014 and his plans included attacks on the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, the Garden Island Naval Base in the Sydney suburb of Woolloomooloo, a courthouse and the Australian Federal Police.
- Two soldiers died and a dozen terrorists were killed on September 12 during an attack against a military detachment in Burkina Faso’s jihadist-hit north. Subsequently, the country’s junta chief Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, who took power in a January coup, sacked his defence minister and assumed the role himself.
- In another attack on September 13 a further eight soldiers were killed, the fourth such action in less than ten days. The government claimed that 41 jihadis were also killed.
- The widow of one of the extremist attackers who stormed the Bataclan concert venue in Paris in November 2015 has been repatriated to France and charged with associating with terrorists. The woman, identified as Kahina El H., was among a group of 51 women and children brought back from detention camps in northeast Syria, where they have been held since the fall of the ISIS group.
- Turkey claimed on September 14 to have arrested two members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) during an operation in Makhmour camp in Erbil province and taken them back to Turkey.
- Peshmerga forces carried out an anti-ISIS operation near Kirkuk on September 13.
- Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) announced on September 15 that it had caught two PKK/KCK terrorists in Iraq’s Makhmour in an operation and brought them to Turkey.
- Kenyan police detonated a bomb in Mandera County on September 17 amid fears of more attacks. The police narrowly escaped an attack after stumbling on an explosive device set by Al Shabaab (AS) on the roadside: locals had tipped off police that there were suspicious men who had been spotted in the area digging the site.
- The Niger government announced on September 16 that seven suspected “terrorists” were killed and some 30 accomplices of Boko Haram (BH) arrested over the past two weeks in southeastern Niger.
- Nigerian military bombardments in the Lake Chad region forced Boko Haram’s “chief executioner” and his family to surrender on September 12. Bashir Bulabuduwaye is said to have killed as many as 1,000 abducted persons condemned by the group, slitting the throats of prisoners and shooting captives after accusing them of being infidels.
- Gunmen attacked a convoy of an opposition senator in southeast Nigeria on September 12, killing five people including two security escorts. While no group claimed responsibility, and violent crime is all too common in Nigeria, southeast Nigeria has seen a surge in violence blamed on the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) group or its armed wing ESN. The IPOB seeks a separate state for ethnic Igbo people, but has repeatedly denied responsibility for violence in the region. In a related story, the IPOB separatist leader Nnamdi Kanu challenged the government’s list of terrorism charges. Nigeria sees the IPOB as a terrorist group.
- Boko Haram (BH) claimed that its fighters killed a soldier and a policeman during attacks on security agencies’ checkpoints in Borno State on September 12.
- Eight terrorists died on September 15 as rival BH and Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) members clashed again in Borno state.
- The governor of Gombe state told Nigerian media on September 16 that Boko Haram and “bandits” are “still terrorising us” in north-east
- Pakistan claimed on September 14 that three soldiers has been killed in an attack across the Afghan border by Afghan ‘terrorists’.
- A roadside bomb claimed by the Pakistani Taliban (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan – TTP) killed eight people, including the former head of a pro-government militia, in northwestern Swat valley on September 14.
- Israeli security forces arrested 12 Palestinian terrorism suspects on the night of September 11-12.
- An Israeli army officer and two armed Palestinians were killed in an exchange of fire at a checkpoint in the occupied West Bank on September 14.
- Gunmen killed three soldiers in an ambush in the southern Philippines on September 15 in violence that coincided with the president’s visit to the region to pledge support for a 2014 peace deal with Muslim rebels that has eased decades of fighting. The attackers were from a band of outlaws that are separate from the Abu Sayyaf Group, a small but violent Muslim militant group that still has a presence in Basilan despite years of battle setbacks
- The Somali army, with the help of local communities, re-took two villages from Al Shabaab (AS) on September 12. Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud also urged citizens to stay away from areas controlled by AS jihadists as he vowed to ratchet up offensives against the group. He later called on the group to surrender to “to avoid being killed”. While on a visit to the US on September 17 he claimed that his government has made ‘significant strides‘ against AS.
- On September 15 the Somali government forces claimed to have carried out an operation against AS in Hiran region in which at least 18 terrorists were killed. There was no immediate independent confirmation of this claim.
- At least four people, including traditional elders, were killed on September 17 when their vehicle hit a landmine in the central Hiiraan region of Somalia. AS denied that they were responsible for the attack and blamed US drones.
- The Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) claimed on September 16 that it had arrested ten AS terrorists planning attacks in Mogadishu.
- The Somali government said on September 17 that its forces had killed at least 30 members of AS in an operation carried out in Hiran region. Five soldiers were wounded in the operation.
- Somali media reported on September 19 that civilians had joined the Somali National Army (SNA) in hunting down and killing AS terrorists. In some cases, civilians proceeded to behead dead AS members: “Al Shabaab is not strong, it just burns people, beheads people and puts their heads in the streets to terrorize…now we are doing the same: we have ordered the beheading of Shabaab fighters” (Hiran elder). 45 AS terrorists were killed on September 18.
- The Kurdish General Command of the Internal Security Forces (Asayish) announced on September 17 that it had arrested a total of 226 ISIS suspects during Operation Humanity and Security in the al-Hol camp.
- Turkey stated that it had arrested at least eight suspects of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the southern city of Mersin on September 14 after they had allegedly “made propaganda” for the group.
- A possible Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) member was arrested under the UK’s Terrorism Act in Derry on September 12, following an investigation into INLA activities in the NW.
- At least three Yemeni soldiers were killed and another six were wounded, including a field military leader, when Al Qaeda detonated improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and launched attacks in Yemen’s southern province of Abyan on September 12.
- Yemeni forces claimed on September 15 that they had driven AQ terrorists from a key mountain stronghold in the province of Abyan, in the latest victory against the terrorist group. Military units commanded by the pro-independence Southern Transitional Council pushed deep into Omaran valley to strike a blow against the group’s decade-long occupation.