The Paris and Brussels attackers may be radicalised by IS propaganda, but they were products of the dysfunctions of modern Europe
Last November, reporting on the 2015 Global Terrorism Index, issued by Sydney-based think tank, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation website headlined the news “Globally, terrorism is on the rise-but little of it occurs in Western countries.”
Strangely enough, though the Paris attack had taken place, leading to the deaths of 130 persons, it did not figure in the report on abc.net.au. What the report did reveal, however, was that the terrorist threat was at the highest level it had ever been, and was rising at an “unprecedented pace.” It showed that a total of 32,658 people were killed by terrorists around the world in 2014, an 80 per cent increase over 2013.
The impact of the Brussels (seen here is the airport at Zaventem) and Paris attacks is more severe because they were unexpected and took place in two advanced and secular societies where there is no ostensible social or political tension. Pic/AFP
No doubt the figures for 2015 will be higher, and for 2016, which has just experienced the horrific Brussels attack, the recent attacks in Turkey and Pakistan, even higher. While the terrorist high tide that had ravaged Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Nigeria and Iraq, is showing no signs of receding, it seems to be spreading to other areas like Indonesia and Turkey.
Deaths from terrorism have increased dramatically since the US invasion of Iraq, peaking first in 2007 with the US troop surge in the country and subsequently going virtually off the chart with the onset of the Syrian civil war and the Iraqi meltdown.
While in absolute terms, the deaths in Paris or Brussels are not as deadly as the happenings in Syria, Iraq or Nigeria, the impact has been much more severe because they were unexpected and took place in two advanced and secular societies where there is no ostensible social or political tension.
A portrait of major attacks in the first 15 days of 2016 reveals the spread and virulence of global terrorism. In Afghanistan, on January 1 a suicide bomber detonated himself at a French restaurant in Kabul killing two persons and wounding 15. On January 2, four terrorists attacked the Indian military base at Pathankot killing 7 security personnel and 1 civilian. On the same day in Mogadishu, 3 people were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up at a popular restaurant near the National Theatre. On January 3, two bombers detonated their vehicle-borne explosive at the gate of a former US base in Iraq killing 15 members of the security forces.
On January 7 a suicide truck bomb killed 60 people and injured 200 at a police training camp near the town of Zliten in Libya. On January 11, at least 12 persons were killed in an attack on a shopping mall in Baghdad, on the same day, a double blast in the northern part of the city led to the deaths of 20 persons. On January 12, a suicide bomber killed 11 persons in a suicide bombing in Istanbul, targeting tourists. 7 people died in a suicide bombing attack in Jalalabad near the Indian consulate which was accompanied by an attack by gunmen on the Pakistani consulate.
On the 13th of January 15 people were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up near a police vehicle in Quetta. Twelve people died when a suicide bomber struck at a mosque at Kouyape, close to the Nigerian border in Cameroon, in an attack attributed to the Boko Haram. January 14 saw suicide bombings and a shootout in Jakarta, resulting in 4 deaths as well as that of the 4 terrorists who claimed allegiance to the IS. On January 15, 63 people died in El Adde Somalia following a siege at an African Union base. On the same day terrorist stormed a hotel taking hostages and killing some 30 people in Ougadougou, Burkina Faso.
India was one of the first countries to suffer from terrorist strikes, mainly masterminded by actors supported by Pakistan. However, Pakistan-backed militancy and terrorism has declined since the Mumbai attacks of 2008. India has successfully coped with the worst and developed protocols and procedures to minimise terrorist violence. But many other countries in Africa and the Middle-East are simply going under the onslaught of mass casualty attacks.
According to the 2015 GTI, most of the attacks in the West between 2006-2014 were lone wolf attacks. But clearly even that is now set to change. What happened in Paris and Brussels was the handiwork of networks of Islamists who were embedded in their societies. They may have been radicalised by the Islamic State propaganda, but they were very much the products of the dysfunctions of modern Europe.
There is every indication that the huge surge of refugees into Europe has enabled many European Muslims who had travelled to the Islamic State to return fully radicalised to their societies. It also reveals that they have now acquired high levels of training and capabilities, such as the ability to make large quantities of the very dangerous explosive TATP which can be made from commonly available chemicals. Europe’s nightmare may just be beginning.
The writer is a Distinguished Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi