Today in terrorism: September 30, 2012/2017

Terrorists acts vary widely – very widely – in scope. At the one end, the end with the highest casualties, we have 9/11 of course: almost 3,000 dead, countless wounded and trillions of dollars in damages. At the other end we have no casualties (dead or wounded): this is not to say that people are not frightened or that the perpetrator did not hope to kill or maim as many as s/he could. It is just that in the end, thankfully, that hope did not materialise.

On this day in history we have examples of both types of attacks and, as it turns out, they were planned and carried out by members of the same group (sort of, as we shall see).

In Iraq in 2012 bombs striking targets across the country killed at least 37 people and wounded 90 others. The perpetrators are believed to have been Al Qaeda in Iraq, the precursor to Islamic State (IS).

In Edmonton on this day in 2017 Abdulahi Hasan Sharif crashed through a barrier outside a football stadium, got out of his vehicle, pulled out a large knife and began stabbing an Edmonton police officer injuring, but not killing him. The same assailant hit and injured four pedestrians a few hours later as he raced through the city’s downtown with police in pursuit. He was stopped, arrested and charged with 12 counts; his trial will take place soon.

In Mr. Sharif’s van was found an IS flag. Whether this means he was actually IS is open to debate. There is nothing that I have seen to indicate that he was a card-carrying member or that he had been directed by IS. It appears that he was ‘inspired’ by the terrorist group, i.e. a wannabe. In that he shares his allegiance with many others who planned and/or executed terrorists in many nations.

There you have it. Two sets of attacks in widely separated areas of the world with widely different results (37 dead and 90 wounded in Iraq vs. no dead and five wounded in Canada). This should not come as too much of a surprise as deadly acts of terrorism in Iraq are unfortunately all too common: they are not so in my country. I also see no reason why this will change soon.

This is a great reminder that there is a lot of variability when it comes to terrorism. Thankfully not all are catastrophic and leave behind large numbers of casualties.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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