Analysts of international terrorism have long warned that the UK has been in danger of a terrorist attack influenced or organised by Jihadist terrorist organisations. ISIS and Al-Qaeda have long encouraged attacks, with ISIS in particular employing a sophisticated and professional approach through social media with the aim of recruiting volunteers to join the group at home and abroad. In fact, the terrorism alert level has been at ‘severe’ since August 2014 due to the threat of British born members of ISIS.
On the 22nd March this year the long predicted attack occurred and in a manner consistent with recent attacks in Nice and Berlin when Khalid Masood ran over his victims in a car and fatally stabbed PC Keith Palmer, who was unarmed, before being shot by police officers. This is typically described as a ‘lone wolf’ attack, although many commentators, including this one prefer to use ‘lone attacker’. The attack was later claimed by the so-called Islamic State (which here is referred to as ‘ISIS’) and is characteristic of the type which analysts have warned is an increasing threat: radicalised individuals, with no clear connections to Jihadist groups, whom carry out their attacks using vehicles, knives, or firearms. While ISIS claim such attacks, they generally don’t have any knowledge of the plan or the attacker, and their claim is made on the basis that they acted on ISIS’s behalf.
The solidarity of Berlin and Paris, amongst others, with the UK in the wake of the attack is reflected in the victims. Those killed were PC Keith Fletcher, Aysha Frade, Leslie Rhodes, and a visiting US citizen, Kurt Cochran, whose wife was also injured. The over 50 injured from twelve counties include people from the UK, France, Romania, Greece, South Korea, Germany, Poland, Ireland, China, Italy and the US. These are the consequences when an attack takes place in a cosmopolitan capital.
Much focus will now take place on the attacker’s past and motivations, and as to whether he genuinely acted alone. Attention will also be on the performance of the security services, who are faced with the unenviable task of countering terrorism from a plethora of threats not limited to Jihadist terrorism, but which also includes that of far-right extremists and fringe republican groups in Northern Ireland. There is also the inevitable propaganda boon for ISIS from a follower striking at a western capital, and such attacks do in fact garner more attention than the many, bloody, attacks in the middle-east. This is not the fault of the media, who could hardly be accused of neglecting Syria and Iraq, at least when they are simply doing their jobs and reporting news.
Attention should instead be placed on the victims, for it is they who should be remembered, not an individual who believed he had the right to kill others because of his own grievances and beliefs. Remember also those who stepped up to the task in the immediate aftermath and set about trying to protect and save life, including that of the attacker. Government went back to work the next day, as did London and the rest of the UK, as is the right and proper response to an isolated act of terrorism. Nor should these tragic events or the victims be used to justify another’s twisted ideology of division and hate, misplaced blame, or the exploitation of divisions within society. Much will be said and written as a consequence of the Westminster attack, some of it will be said in the heat of the moment, as will be the reactions, but in time knee-jerk reactions will be seen as foolhardy and counterproductive. Fear, anger and hate are what the bad guys want: don’t let them have it.
For more information regarding this week’s blog see:
For more resources see the earlier blog: ISIS and the ‘Far Abroad’.
Dr Carl Turner,