As the terrorist threat in the United Kingdom appears to diminish as the time since the attempted attacks on the Haymarket and Glasgow Airport grows ever longer it is easy to understand why some people might become complacent. Sadly history shows that this is a dangerous attitude to take.
Today the United Kingdom literally faces a myriad of threats. Former members of the Irish Republican movement that remain outside the political process have embarked upon a course of development that can only lead to another act of terrorism on the mainland. Far right groups appear set on a confrontation with what they see as Liberal political leaders obsessed with a multi-cultural agenda.
Whilst their acts of terrorism to date remain uncoordinated and at a low scale the potential for that to change remains high as events in Norway last year highlighted. In Greece, Italy and Germany far-left groups have also been seen to be reacting to the increasingly strident activism being adopted by the Extreme Right Wing (XRW). Animal activists and other pressure groups also continue to conduct low level activities allowing them to avoid being labelled as terrorists.
To that complex picture we have to add the enduring threat from Muslim extremists. The lack of any recent attacks since the failed effort on Glasgow Airport highlight a number of problems facing trans-national groups such as Al Qaeda. Whilst the recruiting power of their famous narrative remains strong for many vulnerable people in society who question their social identity, the group itself is patently in a state of disarray.
Others might question the use of such language when it comes to describing a difficult and unpredictable phenomenon like trans-national terrorism. They might advocate using a slightly more modest description of the current situation suggesting their activities have been disrupted or that the organisation behind Al Qaeda is in transition. Without being drawn into semantic arguments it is clear that one of the reasons for the lack of recent terrorist attacks has been the degree to which the central Al Qaeda leadership, thought to be hiding in Pakistan, is being pressurised by drone attacks.
One part of its response to the transition it is inevitably having to undergo in the wake of the death of Osama Bin Laden has been for Al Qaeda to instruct people not to travel overseas to train in terrorist training camps in places such as Pakistan but to conduct attacks as and when they can against any target they see fit. Evidence suggests that this instruction from Al Qaeda central is only partially being obeyed. The rumours of British citizens in Somalia have sufficient veracity about them to suggest that the much spoken off 50-100 Britons in Somalia at the moment is not the product of some wide guess.
The recent coverage of the movements of the former wife of one of the July 7 bombers in London, Jermaine Lindsay, in Kenya and across the border provide some additional verification of the problem. That British people continue to travel overseas to receive training in terrorism cannot be in doubt. Its just their numbers may well be down on those previously placed into the public domain.
Some acolytes of Al Qaeda have heeded the call to remain at home. In this case the lack of formal training that they would have received in terrorist training camps may well be leading to the individuals involved making a number of mistakes. This helps the security services. It is likely that on several occasions since Glasgow that people involved in nascent attempts to form groups have made mistakes that have seen them appear on the radar horizon of the security services.
The arrests mounted by the police and security services have had a material effect on the groups that are known to be active in the UK. They become more wary, taking time to establish the kind of trusted relationships needed to plan and execute an act of terrorism. That creates a sense of inertia in the terrorist planning cycle that those unfamiliar these effects could interpret as a broader indication of the imminent end of terrorist attacks in the UK.
Whilst the successes against home-grown terrorist groups is to be welcomed and certainly suggestive of a lack of complacency in the security services ahead of the Olympics and Diamond Jubilee celebrations this year it does not completely eradicate the potential for terrorism. Groups that are more sophisticated in their approach can remain off the radar horizon. The issue of how the security services manage limited resources came to the fore during Lady Justice Hallett’s Public Enquiry into the events of the 7 July 2005. The witness from the Security Service was clear in his evidence that on occasion’s confusion and uncertainty can exist in respect of the real identity of specific individuals whose activities for a short period of time come to their attention.
All this leads to an inevitable conclusion. Whilst the time since the last terrorist attack on the mainland grows the probability of another event does not diminish in some linear relationship. Far from it, almost the reverse is true. In mathematical terms the probability of another attack is related to the inverse of the measure of time that has passed. Whilst practically that is unlikely to be as simple an equation as suggested it does show that when the drivers for terrorism remain palpable that recruitment will continue to occur. Whilst that pipeline of recruits is present the potential for another attack remains high.
With recent events in Afghanistan providing yet another point of grievance to echo those used in the past such as the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed that were published in Danish newspapers it is unlikely that the flow rate of recruits is about to diminish. In such circumstances and against the backdrop of the celebrations occurring this year it would be wise for everyone to remain vigilant not just the security services. Their resources are already busy. To catch those trying to operate off the radar horizon of the authorities requires the participation of society as a whole. A point illustrated so well by the actions of the Muslim community in Bristol when they showed their concern by reporting the activities of Andrew Ibrahim to the police.
It is to be hoped that the opportunity for a national celebration of the Queens Jubilee and the once in a lifetime chance to host the world’s greatest sporting event will not be lost in the aftermath and repercussions of a bloody repeat of the scenes of the 7 July 2005.
Posted March 22nd, 2012 at 1045 by Andrew. Comment by emailing: email@example.com