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October Today in Terrorism

October 17, 2008: Suicide bombing in Georgia, United States

On October 17, 2008 a man tossed a bomb into a law firm in Georgia (US), killing himself and wounding four.

DALTON, GEORGIA – When attacks happen that we are convinced are terrorist in nature we still have to gather facts to make that determination.

In recent years one phenomenon has risen to our consciousness, and not in a good way. No, I am not talking about things like obsessive Pokemon Go challenges, which, while silly, is harmless. The trend I am talking about is most definitely not harmless.

I wonder if the Vogons could be called terrorists? (Photo: Pan Macmillan)

This practice is known as suicide bombing. It is a form of terrorism in which the perpetrator seeks to cause as much death and destruction as possible while at the same time taking his or her own life (while the vast majority of suicide terrorists are men some are women: the Sri Lankan Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was particularly adept at using females in this regard).

We read all the time about this form of terrorism and tend to associate it, not entirely accurately, with Islamist extremism. It stands to reason, though, that when we see a headline ‘Suicide bomber in _____ kills dozens’ we leap to the conclusion that we are talking terrorism. And we are confident we are right.

Not always.

On this day in 2008

Lloyd Cantrell tossed a bomb into a law firm on West Crawford Street in Dalton, Georgia. He died in the explosion: his act injured four, including an attorney who suffered burns. Cantrell had tried to ram the building with his SUV before he opted for Plan B.

Motive? Hard to say. Cantrell apparently was having a ‘legal dispute’ with his son. Police investigations did not turn up any link to violent extremism.

This is not an act of terrorism. It is a depraved individual, by all accounts, who decided to launch a suicide attack for reasons we are still investigating.

Steve Sweetow, assistant special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)

So in the end what would look on the surface to be a clear act of terrorism turned out not to be. Once again, this is why we look at all the available information before drawing conclusions.

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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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