Although terrorism has never been isolated to one continent, one country or one ideology, before September 11th 2001, terrorism was not a high priority security issue that dominated government policies across the globe. However, since its birth, India has witnessed terrorist activity swiftly encroach and continually penetrate its borders.
In the case of Kashmir and in India, the direct exportation of state sponsored terrorism from Pakistan was viewed more as a complication and obstacle in the India-Pakistani relationship than a formidable and dangerous threat. Until 9/11, no serious commitment was made by India’s allies in the West to challenge the assistance, encouragement and infiltration of extremism within the subcontinent.
The most suitable example includes the disregard of India’s accusations toward Pakistan’s state sponsored terror policy, with no grievous event taken seriously until the United States experienced an attack on her own soil.
Only four years after 9/11, the United Kingdom experienced its worst terrorist incident since the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. No stranger to domestic terrorism with the Real IRA bombings failing to cease after three decades, the 7/7 bombings marked the first Islamist suicide attack in the country.
These incidents forced the West to reconsider their current stance on terrorism, leaning their ears towards countries that had been heavily afflicted by terrorist activity. After correcting previous policies, redrafting laws and creating counter-terrorism acts, the impact of these changes in national security inevitably rippled into international relations. For example, Pakistan enjoyed a beneficial bilateral relationship with the United States until 9/11 and the consequent intervention in Afghanistan. However the relationship between the two nations continues to deteriorate under the strain of each others criticism of the War on Terror, along with several high profile incidents that fuelled already high levels of mistrust. In addition to this, members within the U.S congress have passed an amendment that seeks to restrict aid to Pakistan because of its close relations with the terrorist organisations. These restrictive tactics by the United States continue to fail in thwarting Pakistan’s objectives, with China now using Pakistan to gain geopolitical leverage and counter India’s growing influence in the region.
Terrorism has three formats.
First, state sponsored. An example of this includes the United States facilitating arms shipments and financial aid to the insurgent group “the Mujahideen” during the Cold War. With the help of Pakistani government contacts, the objective was to restrict Soviet forces in Afghanistan. However, the repercussion of this action has a regional ripple effect that continues for decades, particularly in the case of Pakistan, where terrorism has been given a breeding ground.
Second, the growth of non-state actors world wide, namely ISIS, al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Hezbollah. Identified as an entity that participates and wields power and/or influence in international relations without belonging to an established state, these non-state actors thrive because of their ability to shift their operations and activity. This means that any terror activity carried out by these actors are quickly claimed as a way of establishing, recognising and legitimising their presence. For example, September 11th in New York, the 2008 Mumbai terror attack and the 2014 attack on the Peshawar military school in Pakistan were all taken responsibility for by the concerned non-state terror outfits.
And third, terrorism completely based on ideology. This is one of the deadliest virus’ the present time has witnessed, with anyone vulnerable to being radicalised by an ideology. Unlike non-state actors, ideological based terror is more reluctant and sometimes unable to fully claim for their activity. We can see this pattern emerging in some recent cases, where terrorist groups are not ready or informed enough to take responsibility for atrocities. This is evident in the rise of lone wolf attacks and small, but organised factions across Europe claiming allegiance to Islamic State without IS having full knowledge or participation in the recruitment and radicalisation. By urging followers to carry out acts of terrorism without official planning, instruction or material contribution from senior leaders, IS manages to remain an infectious and deadly enigma in which global leaders still remain uncertain on how to effectively tackle and defeat.
The shift from non-state actor terrorism to ideological based terrorist activity is extremely alarming. It does not require traditional leadership or direction, and it can penetrate borders without a passport or visa. The recent attacks in Paris, Nice, Brussels, Kabul, Bangkok, and Dhaka and in US cities demonstrate this. Post-9/11, the entire concept of terrorism has drastically changed, domestically and globally. A cowardly attack against innocent civilians continues today without any hard policy restrictions from the international community. Western countries in particular have strong condemnations but are restrict their acts of responding to terror, leaving their societies fearful, shaken and heartbroken.
In regards to analysis, we do not have any correct perception of these attacks. We are not ready to analyse the real issue behind this new enemy. Many agree that terrorism has ushered an ambiguous form of war into the modern era, and into parts of the world where it was previously unknown or unrecognisable. Moreover, it has support from all radicalised groups. Glorifying death by killing others allures many young, misguided minds across the globe. It is worth noting, those involved in ideological based terror acts all are rarely from poor socio-economic backgrounds. For example, the Dhaka attackers were well-educated individuals from middle class families.
All our security and intelligence operations are based on old, outdated perceptions and information. Now we are forced to deviate from traditional security perspectives and review alternative, contemporary outlooks. However, there is currently no consensus on how to target and destroy an enemy based on ideology. The former secretary of state Hillary Clinton endorses this point. Following the attack on the city of Nice in France, she said that the enemy was “an ideology and not a nation state”.
The state sponsored enemy can be at least identified and action can be taken to handle them. Negotiations can be organised with the state who has sponsored or who is behind the attacks, targets can be identified, preparations can be made to hinder breeding grounds and/or plans can be formulated for an offensive retaliation.
But the ideological based enemy flourishes with fear, by spreading insecurities and apprehension among the public when gathering in cities, organising group events or celebrating anything in a common place. It is tough to predict who would succumb to radicalisation and inflict destruction and death upon innocent civilians, and it is extremely difficult to adequately prepare for such sporadic and unpredictable events. In addition, these enemies have deadly weapons available, which are no longer restricted to guns and/or suicide bombs. The recent attacks in the city of Nice in France in which the radicalised driver, motivated by his ideology, used his 19-tonne lorry as a weapon to kill more than 80 people and injure hundreds. The target remains largely in-discriminatory, with the goal being to kill the maximum number of people as possible. The attacker is no longer a known, identifiable enemy we share a border with, or is perhaps a sea, mountain range or land mass away. The attacker is the ’enemy at the gates’, and waits patiently at the gate of every country to unleash its wrath.
But the ideology based enemy is really panicking anyone to gather in the cities or to organize any group events or to celebrate anything in a common place. It is tough to predict who would turn toward the radical way and become a attacker. They simply occupying by the evil mind passionate in killing the innocence people for their ideology. It is extremely difficult to predict and act on it. These enemies are using the available deadly weapons. Not restricted with guns or suicide bombs. The recent attacks in the city of Nice in France the radicalized driver motivated by his ideology used his lorry as a weapon to smash the 80 plus lives. Their targets are just to kill the maximum number of human. You cannot say the attack is on our neighbor we are nothing to do with that. It indicates that the ‘enemy at the gates’ of everyone. It is on every state gate to breath its wrath.
What would be the best policy solution?
First, the UN protocol on terrorism should be adopted. The earliest should be the 71st session of the UN General Assembly by September this year (2016). The international community should coordinate the adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT). If the CCIT is adopted at the UNGA, this would enable a huge leap forward to counter this ideological enemy, particularly in regard to cooperating with other states for joint action efforts and shared communication.
Second, everyone agree with the statement of Clinton: “We’re at war against radical jihadists who use Islam to recruit and radicalise others in order to pursue their evil agenda”. This recruitment drive is accelerated through social media, used largely by youthful members of society. In addition to ease of access, the monitoring of social media is difficult, especially with legal challenges. However, it is the responsibility of each state to contribute counter greater efforts in combating radicalisation online.
Third, society should encourage and promote a united voice in opposing those who follow this ideology. This would effectively give a strong stance and warning to those who are vulnerable to accepting and acting on this ideology. Parents should closely observe their children while they are abroad for their higher education or for employment, frequent communication between family members, and between families and religious figures in some cases, would dismantle the idea if they are already poisoned.
Fourth, the government should take stringent action against radicalised preachers. Even a small intelligence warning should be carefully analysed and action should be taken to uproot their existing presence and influence. Their financial foundation should be demolished and any supportive infrastructure should be completely shutdown.
Fifth, the government cannot give protection for all events or gatherings. However, organisers should carefully supervise entrances and scrutinise entry passes. Festivals, large gatherings, celebrations, rallies should be strictly monitored, with local governments and police informed prior. Moreover, airports and bus stations are always a prominent target. Security arrangements should always be motivated to be vigilant, with intermittent drills and training exercises for various security breaches, eliminating any potential for would-be attackers. Small harbours and/or coastal areas should be given added surveillance which are fitted with mechanisms that connect local police stations.
And finally, the governments and the ruling elites should speak for everyone in the society. They should comfort marginalised and minority groups whilst standing with them as they all, side by side as one society, face and deplore violent harassment. The enemy is waiting and watching at the gates, and will radicalise anyone that falls to their hands.
Currently in the United States, the Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump continues to advance the opposite of these ideas, preying on domestic fears for political gains. In India too, Prime Minister Narandera Modi’s speeches are carried out to polarise voters for domestic political gains. Ultimately, this enables the enemy and their agenda by escalating xenophobia and isolating already susceptible individuals, which in turn aids their recruitment, strengthens their devotees and encourages unrestrained, bloody action.
Whether you like it or not, the barbarians are at the gates. It is up to society and their state leaders, do we destroy them or let them destroy us.
Gun Control: Lessons from the East
28th April, 1996 is deemed as one of the darkest days in the history of Australia. The infamous and deadly Port Arthur massacre took place in the famous tourist spot of Port Arthur, Tasmania where a 28 year old Australian, Martin Bryant open fired with a semi-automatic weapon, killing many. Before the day was over, he had attacked people in different places killing 35 people and injuring 18 people in total.
In the wake of this tragedy, government officials in each of Australia’s six states and two mainland territories decided to call a ban on semi-automatic and other military-style weapons from across the continent in almost 10 days after the massacre. The officials halted the import of these weapons and launched a nationwide program called ‘Gun-Buyback Program.’ Under this program, Australians were encouraged to freely give up their weapons and many of them agreed. The Australian government confiscated almost 650,000 automatic and semi-automatic rifles under this program. It also established a registry which kept a record of all guns that were owned in the country. It also introduced a new permit which became mandatory for all new firearm purchase.
These policies and reforms led to a significant decline in Australia’s firearm homicide rate and firearm suicide rate. Since the reforms took place, some experts believe that there has been an 80% drop in gun-related homicides and suicides. With limited access to guns and stringent laws put in place related to gun-purchase, number of mass-shootings and gun-suicides plummeted.
Recently, the world was shook by the deadly Christchurch mosque shootings that took place in New Zealand. There were two consecutive mass shootings which resulted in the death of almost 50 people. Six days after the attack, in a swift action, New Zealand announced a new ban on sale and distribution of a range of semi-automatic rifles and other weapons in the effort to curb gun violence. They also imposed a ban on ownership of previously-owned firearms and also initiated a buy-back program. Moreover, countries like Singapore, Japan, Taiwan and China have the lowest number of gun-related deaths in the world.
Simultaneously, western countries like the USA, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala and Venezuela account for almost half of all global deaths that occur from gun violence. In 2018 it was estimated that almost 250,000 number of global deaths happened due to gun-homicide or gun-suicide, and half of those deaths took place in 6 aforementioned countries. It is also estimated that suicide by shooting is on a rise and more number of people are using firearms to commit suicide each year. Over 150 mass shootings took place in the US alone in 2018 killing over 1,100 people and injuring as many. This devastation figure started a widespread discussion on gun-control in the US.
According to a research conducted by the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, ease of access to a firearm during a vulnerable moment, higher firearm-ownership and loose gun legislations in a country have led to higher gun violence. In the USA, the last substantial gun-control legislation was imposed in 1994 which placed a federal ban on military style assault weapons for 10 years. However, this ban was not imposed on people who already owned these arms. When the ban was lifted in 2004, many Americans acquired military-style rifles which also became a popular choice of weapon for mass shooting. It is surprising that in many parts of the US, an American can easily purchase a military style rifle before they are legally allowed to buy beer. Many people also justify purchasing and carrying of weapons in the name of self-defence.
I am aware of the fact that the USA and many other western countries are bigger in size and population compared to Eastern countries, however with the growing number of gun-deaths, we have to underscore the importance of strict gun-control legislations and vigilant policies on ownership of gun. Moreover, background checks of people wanting to purchase guns and acquisition of permits by gun-selling stores should be made mandatory. If the USA could place a ban on gun-sale all those years ago, it can do it again. The government must find a way to work around USA’s Second Amendment and place stricter laws in relation with gun-ownership.
Who is Brenton Tarrant: Insight on the New Zealand Attack
A misfortunate incident hit by surprise the usually peaceful city of Christchurch, New Zealand on Friday. The attacker, Brenton Tarrant, 28, Australian, accused of carrying out attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, resulted in the deaths of at least 50 people, all worshipping Muslims, including children, was charged with murder as he appeared in a district court on Saturday. A global debate has aroused on the fact that the charge merely speaks of the killer being accused of murder and not terrorism, which is another debate.
The event has sprung up international attention, with gun-laws of New Zealand being revised, investigations underway and multiple gestures and actions given by the Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern and globally in support of victims. An incident as such has occurred in New Zealand after almost 30 years, taking the world by surprise.
The live video of the attack was uploaded by the attacker, which aired for almost 17 minutes- making plenty of room for criticizing the social media outlet for letting an act of violence being aired without action.
Tarrant, described by Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison as an “extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist”, expressed admiration for other violent white nationalists and his intention to “create an atmosphere of fear” and to “incite violence” against Muslims.
In a 74-page so-called Manifesto, Tarrant wrote: “My language originated in Europe, my culture is European, my political beliefs are European, my identity is European and, above all, my blood is European” before the attack on the Internet. It details an anti-immigrant, neo-fascist ideology and deplores the so-called decline of European civilization. and described himself as an “ordinary white man.” Tarrant did not have a criminal history and was not on any watch lists in New Zealand or Australia.
A set of questions that arise in the wake of this unfortunate condition are: Who is responsible for the massacre of 50 people- The man behind the attack? The social media platform that aired live the attack for 17 minutes? The 26-minute delayed response from the New Zealand police and government, who already were informed about the “manifesto” of the attacker 9 minutes prior to the shooting or the immigrants who have been a source of the highly debated emerging “Islamophobia” globally. Moreover, why did the attacker perform the heinous attack and under what influence?
A possible explanation to the posed questions can be given by a phenomenon given under the area of terrorism and counter-terrorism. By definition, the attack was all that defines a “terrorist attack” but the attacker is slightly different to what a “terrorist” is defined as- rather, is a “lone wolf”.
A solitary actor, a terrorist of solitary actors, or lone wolf, is someone who prepares and commits violent acts alone, outside any order structure and without any group aid material. They can be influenced or motivated by the ideology and beliefs of an external group and can act in support of this group. These people do not have connections to any organization, but are self-auto rotated through the construction of a certain ideology from the accumulation and assimilation of knowledge by their own.
Lone wolves are hard to identify. These are normal people dwelling in normal conditions, usually showing no sign of violent behavior. Keeping such people under check is as hard as recognizing their lethal abilities. They tend to be more dangerous than terrorist organizations since they take by surprise through their actions, they’re neither under check or suspected or, as a matter of fact, identified.
The attacker- a lone wolf- was not known to police in Australia for violent extremism or serious criminal behavior. Three other suspects were detained along with Tarrant on Friday, but police now say he acted alone. He doesn’t classify under psychologically disturbed- as most western attackers are in such cases by any means.
Responding to his own question “Is there a particular person that radicalized you the most?”, Tarrant wrote: “Yes, the person that has influenced me above all was [US conservative commentator] Candace Owens… Each time she spoke I was stunned by her insights and own views helped push me further and further into the belief of violence over meekness”, having an “unhealthy narcissism” common among “terrorists”.
People with firm ideologies- as Tarrant- believe they are correct and it is hard to convince them otherwise (as religious ideologies e.g. Muslim ideology or nationalistic ideology e.g. Hindutva, Zionism etc). All writing over the attacker’s weapons, if read, explained and translated signify a certain incident where immigrants (particularly Muslims) have been a threat to the white, in acts of violence against the white race, justifying the attacker’s action for fighting against a group that threatens the existence of the white race.
In this situation, neither social media for airing live (not enough evidence on the attacker’s social media outlet to take prior action) nor the government (informed 9 minutes prior to attack, too small a gap for stopping a terrorist attack, not including a location or specific details) can be blamed for the incident as identification and keeping check is almost impossible.
In the case of the attacker, even after being convicted, believes has done nothing wrong, was smirking throughout the process of his detainment whilst making a hand gesture of white supremacy throughout, with the belief that he might get 27 years in prison just like Nelson Mandela and be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.
The reason to this radicalization is unchecked information, quick and easy access has led to the production of numerous such lone wolves, who will unleash their preposterous ideologies into violent acts if the content that is available is not censored. Another step that may prove helpful is the production of correction centers as a strategy towards counter terrorism since just convicting and killing the terror mongers does not kill an ideology they were triggered by, but only glorifies and promotes it. These centers are particularly necessary in educational institutes, weapon clubs, online portals, social media and mainstream media etc. Immediate action is required globally with amendments in counterterrorism strategies reverting to psychological correction rather aggression against the violator, else wise, the world has no less Tarrants currently to deal with- but many more.
The Impact of Words: Christchurch Shooting
New Zealanders and Australians (two English-speaking Commonwealth nations closely knit by culture, geography and history) have been horrified by a major white extremist terrorist event in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday 15 March.
Forty-nine Muslim worshippers, at Friday prayers in two Christchurch mosques six kilometers apart, were murdered in concurrent gun attacks led by an Australian far-right nationalist extremist, Brenton Tarrant, who filmed his whole attack from a head-held video camera while he shot worshippers at random with a semi-automatic weapon. Forty people were injured, some critically. Major mainstream and social media are being asked to remove Tarrant’s deeply evil video footage, but much of it had already got out online as was his intention.
The mosques were unguarded, New Zealand having hitherto been entirely terrorism-free. Tarrant and four other unnamed persons involved, three men and a woman, who are believed at this stage to be New Zealanders, are under arrest. Tarrant’s trial is listed for April. A shaken NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern vowed immediate government action to tighten NZ’s lax gun laws, to tighten NZ border controls, and to strengthen NZ-Australia intelligence agency information-sharing on extremist groups.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who faces an early election which has to be held by May, and which he is tipped to lose heavily, expressed sympathy and shock. He conspicuously visited Sydney’s most important mosque, in solidarity with Australian Muslim communities. But many Australians may doubt his sincerity in view of his and his Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s long personal history of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim public sentiments.
Tarrant had issued a racial-hate manifesto online, minutes before his group’s attack began, calling for an end to all Muslim migration into Australia and NZ. His views are shared within a small but vocal group of white extreme nationalist extremists in Australia who hold provocative public meetings and seek out media attention. Such a meeting is still scheduled to go ahead today in Moorabin, Melbourne, at which Senator Fraser Anning from the state of Queensland will criticise Australia’s immigration policies. A counter-demonstration is planned in protest. Police will be present.
At federal political level, Islamophobic and anti-immigrant views are most stridently represented by Senator Pauline Hanson’s minority One Nation Party and by Senator Anning, who was elected as a Queensland state senator on the One Nation Party ticket but subsequently broke with Senator Hanson. Queensland is a state characterised by high youth unemployment and a declining coal industry. It is a focus of far-right white nationalist extremism.
Anning, who is not expected to be re-elected, desperately seeks publicity. Just hours after the Christchurch shootings, he published a highly offensive media release blaming the shootings on Muslim immigration to Australia and NZ, alleging that the governments had created a climate of racial tension. His media release effectively endorsed much in Tarrant’s manifesto. It has been almost universally condemned in Australia.
This well-planned politically-motivated mass murder is being compared to the Anders Breivik mass murder of young Norwegians in 2011. It is also being compared to recent targeted terrorist attacks, in US and elsewhere, on people at prayer in mosques and synagogues.
Questions are being asked about context and coincidence.
How was it possible for an Australian with known links to white supremacist extremist organisations in Australia to fly to New Zealand without NZ Security agencies being alerted to monitor him? How was it possible for his group to buy guns and ammunition in New Zealand without security agencies being alerted? Are Australian and New Zealand security agencies too focused on monitoring alleged threats from Islamist extremist groups, to the neglect of even more dangerous far-right white nationalist extremists?
Also: the attack coincided with a day of major ‘school strikes’ and street demonstrations by many thousands of young people in all major cities around Australia, protesting at Australian federal and state governments’ inadequate climate change policies, including their failure to ban opening of new coal mines. Similar demonstrations were taking place in New Zealand, supported by PM Ardern. Australian PM Morrison had criticised the demonstrations as inappropriate on a school day. In any event, the NZ shooting tragedy totally eclipsed media attention to the young people’s climate change and anti-coalmines demonstrations. Was this planned by the perpetrators, and who might have advised them?
Some critics claim, I believe correctly, that right-wing politicians who now dominate the governing party coalition, and right-wing mainstream media, have over recent years fostered and helped to generate a supportive climate for an anti-immigrant extremist movement in Australia, helping it to gain respectability and take root among economically depressed and politically alienated white Australian youth. These critics say that these politicians and media must now accept shared responsibility for fostering a political climate that encourages such terrible acts as the massacre of innocents in Christchurch.
Senior police leaders in Australia have appealed to politicians and media to consider the impact of their words. I hope they will do so.
Though this terrorist event has visibly shocked decent mainstream opinion in Australia and New Zealand, it may push race relations and immigration issues into greater prominence in the forthcoming Australian federal election. There is a danger of polarisation under Scott Morrison’s clumsy leadership: he could as in past Australian elections try to talk up racial fears to his party’s presumed advantage.
Australia’s and New Zealand’s foreign policies are also coming under scrutiny in the wake of this attack. Both countries are members of the ‘Five Eyes’ Intelligence-sharing network. Their military forces are deeply enmeshed in US-led past and present military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Sophisticated US-Australian joint defence facilities at Pine Gap, Central Australia are believed to be in current use to assist US military targeting in Syria. The Australian arms industry is selling weapons technology to Saudi Arabia that is being used by the Saudi Air Force in lethal bombing operations against Yemeni civilians.
The danger is that, after the initial public shock and horror at this attack has passed, the desperate and failing Morrison government may be tempted to exploit it to try to create a ‘national security’ and anti-immigration pre-election climate. The Labor Party Opposition and its leader Bill Shorten will need to watch its own words and policies in coming weeks. So will Australia’s mainstream and social media.
I believe the lessons for all responsible governments and politicians are: firstly, to consider the impact of their policies and words on disaffected youth, and always to uphold inter-ethnic and inter-religious harmony; secondly, to task national security agencies to monitor equally extremist elements of all persuasions. I believe by both these yardsticks the Russian Federation has a very good record. I wish I could currently say the same of Australia.
First published in our partner RIAC
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