Today in Terrorism: 12 November

Islamic State is best known for attacks on other faiths, but they are not the only ones.

I suppose it is inevitable in a series that features an act of terrorism for every single day over an entire year that there will be some repetition. Aside from the fact that there is, unfortunately, at least one incident that could be described as terrorist in nature each day, it is also likely that, given the different scales of terrorist organisations, some groups will be more active than others. In other words, some terrorists are more lethal than others.

Islamic State (ISIS) is one such group. It would be very easy, almost a default position, to write a blog everyday about an act of violent extremism carried out by this one outfit, or one of its affiliates (of which there are some 20). That, I fear, would become tedious and not very interesting to read, every day.

There is a common theme, however. I’d like to know what you think about this presentation.

Still, there are acts which cannot be ignored due to the sheer size of death and destruction caused. Here is an analogy: can anyone talk about September 11 and NOT refer to 9/11?

In the interests of diversity, however, I will stray a little from the usual format you have become used to in this series. Today, I will present several incidents: the inevitable big ones and one that may not be as familiar to you. There is a common theme, however. I’d like to know what you think about this presentation.

In 2015 at least 43 people were killed and more than 240 wounded in two suicide bomb blasts claimed by ISIS in a crowded residential district in Beirut’s southern suburbs.

Islamic State attacks in Lebanon (2015) and Pakistan (2016)

In 2015, at least 43 people were killed and more than 240 wounded in two suicide bomb blasts claimed by ISIS in a crowded residential district in Beirut’s southern suburbs, a stronghold of the Shi’ite Muslim group Hezbollah. That Shia were targeted is not surprising: Islamist extremists HATE the Shia more than anything at all. That ISIS has a presence in Lebanon is interesting.

One year later, at least 52 people were killed and 102 were injured in a bombing at the Sufi shrine of Shah Norani in the Pakistani province of Balochistan. That Sufi were targeted is not surprising: Islamist extremists HATE Sufis almost as much as they hate Shia. Again, that ISIS struck in Pakistan is of note.

Police suggested that an Aceh separatist group, likely the Free Aceh Movement (also known as GAM after its Indonesian name Gerakan Aceh Merdeka), was responsible for the blast.

Aceh separatists (2000)

Now for the less obvious. In 2000, an explosion occurred near a Christian meeting hall in the capital of Indonesia’s North Sumatra where hundreds of people were gathering to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Indonesian Council of Churches. The blast killed one woman and injured several other people and caused damage to nearby buildings. Police suggested that an Aceh separatist group, likely the Free Aceh Movement (also known as GAM after its Indonesian name Gerakan Aceh Merdeka), was responsible for the blast, because of the nature of the device used.

Indonesia has been the site of many terrorist acts over the decades, most of which are the handiwork of Islamist extremist organisations such as the Al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah (they were behind the 2002 Bali attacks for example). GAM is a different beast. It has been around since 1976 and seeks to separate from Indonesia. Its stronghold is a very conservative Muslim one and there are regular reports of religious intolerance in the region. Since 2001, authorities in Aceh have enforced their version of Islamic law in part by using floggings to punish offenders. Some say the group disbanded its armed wing in 2005. We’ll see.

The blast killed one woman and injured several other people and caused damage to nearby buildings.

I suppose if there is an underlying theme to the three attacks briefly discussed today, aside from the obvious that they were all perpetrated by Islamist terrorists, is in the target selection. The victims (Shia Muslims, Sufi Muslims and Christians) all belonged to a religious group the terrorists hate.

That is an important theme. And, if you permit me, a good reason to read my newest book, When Religion Kills, published later this month.