Today in Terrorism: 2 November 2004/2018

Islamist terrorists strike in Netherlands and Egypt 14 years apart

I have been studying and writing about terrorism for a very long time, coming up on 20 years. First as an intelligence analyst at CSIS in Canada, followed by a post civil service career as a writer and media commentator (and author of five books on the subject), I find the phenomenon of violent extremism fascinating still, even after two decades. One thing is for sure: there is no shortage of material to look at. I wish it were not so.

Today is a very good case in point. On this day in history, fourteen years apart, two attacks took place, both of which were linked to the same underlying terrorist ideology: Islamist extremism.

In Amsterdam, ‘outspoken’ Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was killed by a Netherlands-born jihadi, Mohammed Bouyeri, probably as a result of a documentary van Gogh made in which quotes from the Quran were projected on to a naked female body with a commentary composed of the testimonies of abused Muslim women.

Onthullend: brieven openbaar die moordenaar Theo van Gogh vanuit zijn cel schreef
Islamist terrorist Mohamed Bouyeri (Photo: EenVaadaag)

This murder had a profound effect on the Dutch intelligence service, the AIVD, and spurred them to become one of the best spy agencies in their understanding of the phenomenon of jihadi terrorism. I know this to be true for that was the beginning of my relationship with that service and I benefited immensely from their analysis (and made some good friends in the process). There have been few similar attacks since that day in the Netherlands but I know the AIVD still sees Islamist extremism as an investigative priority.

In 2018 the Islamic State (ISIS) wilayat (affiliate) in the Sinai region of Egypt claimed responsibility for an attack on Coptic Christians traveling to the monastery of St. Stephen’s in the country’s western desert area, killing seven and wounding 16. The Egyptian branch of ISIS has been very active in recent years and Coptic Christians are often at the top of the group’s hit list.

The Monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor in Egypt’s western desert. In May 2017, gunmen wearing military fatigues opened fire on three buses that were traveling toward the same monastery.
St. Stephen’s monastery (Photo: Shutterstock)

In all truth I could write about many terrorist attacks that occur on the same day in different years. Every day provides a wealth of data on a wide variety of groups, motivations and unfortunate victims. The choices I make are dictated either by a theme I want to develop or a particular group/attack that may may not be as well known as others. I hope the contributions I make are helpful, even in a small way, to some.

All I know is that I will continue to have too much to write about.