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June Today in Terrorism

June 8, 2016: Balloon attack in Syria

On June 9, 2016 Jabhat Al Nusra terrorists shelled the Syrian city of Aleppo with explosives placed in gas balloons killing 5 and wounding 50

ALEPPO, SYRIA – We rightfully condemn terrorists and their acts but at times we have to acknowledge their creativity.

For the purposes of illustration, let us perform the following thought experiment. Let us say you are an aspiring terrorist and want to carry out a terrorist attack. What particular weapon do you use?

Well, if you are (or rather were) Al Qaeda (AQ) in the 2000s you would choose passenger aircraft. That led to a spectacular attack, true, but it was very complicated. VERY complicated. You had to get the terrorists trained on how to fly a jet (but not how to take off or land, which the flight instructors who taught them should have found odd to say the least). This is just this side of rocket scientist.

If you are anyone else your choices are next to unlimited: a gun (easy to acquire in many parts of the world including the US), an IED (not THAT hard to build), a car (ANYONE can get their hands on a car) or even a simple kitchen knife (ditto). After all, maybe most terrorists abide most of the time to the KISS principle (‘keep it simple stupid‘).

Hey, maybe you’re kissing a terrorist who has contracted COVID! (Photo: ProFlowers on flickr, CC BY 2.0)

Then again, on some occasions terrorists really reach for the newfangled.

On this day in 2016

Jabhat Al Nusra (JN) terrorists shelled the Syrian city of Aleppo with explosives they had placed in gas balloons. Five civilians were killed and 50 wounded in the attack and residential houses were damaged in the city’s Meydan district.

This is not the first case when militants of Jabhat al-Nusra targeted the areas of mass concentration of citizens of the city expecting to have a great amount of victims.

Representative of Russia’s center for reconciliation of the warring parties

Now I have no idea how complicated this is. Do the terrorists tie the bombs to the balloons? What if the wind blows the wrong way and the devices explode over the terrorists’ heads? This happened in WWI when poison gas (chlorine) was first deployed. Balloons are not easy to manoeuver after all.

This MO does strike me as inventive at a minimum. Alas, there are always new ideas in the minds of those who mean to do harm.

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By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. and Director of the National Security programme at the University of Ottawa’s Professional Development Institute (PDI). Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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