Will we ever be rid of terrorism?

On the fourth anniversary of Lee Rigby’s murder in Woolwich, the UK yet again suffered at the hands of terrorism – this time at the Manchester Arena (22 May, with 22 total deaths). Before the Manchester Arena had a chance to re-open, terrorists struck again, this time in the capital, with the London Bridge attack and a further loss of eight lives. 

But this is nothing new to the people of the UK. At the time of writing, each previous decade in the UK, going back to the 1970s, has suffered more terror attacks than the decade that followed it, mainly because of the situation with the IRA. Now we have a different type of threat, and one that continues to evolve. Risk plays an important part in all walks of life (crossing the road, driving in a car or being a passenger in an aircraft) and as I’ve written previously, it’s about remaining as vigilant as ever because the modern terrorist methods are perversely primitive yet easily carried out and very difficult to prevent.

So, what does the future look like in terms of safety and security? Will things ever return to what most people would call ‘normal’? I honestly don’t think so. I would suggest that with each terrorist attack in the UK, there is the creation of a new state of normality. The security services have been and continue to do an excellent job in preventing terrorist incidents, but as terrorists have stated in the past (after the Brighton Hotel bombing), they “only have to be lucky once”. Whilst there is a desire to disrupt and destroy the Western way of life, it will always be something hanging over us, and it only takes one person to have that desire and the means to carry it out for yet another news headline to be created.

The underlying theme in just about every terrorist incident is that when the steps are eventually retraced in the aftermath of the investigation, there are usually numerous points at which the terrorist may have inadvertently provided clues of their intentions to those close to them. Changes in behaviour and personality, making journeys that they would not ordinarily carry out, meeting people not previously mentioned to friends and family; these things can, when added together, provide some inkling that all is not well. To the suspicious mind, it may be possible to pick up on the clues and bring them to the attention of the authorities, however trivial they may seem. The threat from terrorism isn’t going away any time soon and you cannot design out the risk completely. It used to be bombs and firearms, which were more difficult to obtain, but now, weapons are being made from everyday items such as knives and vehicles.

Thankfully, if anything positive can come of this type of thing, it was evident in the London Bridge attack that we have a first-class police service full of brave people who are trained and prepared to act swiftly and decisively to limit the casualties and damage. Rushing to the scene and not fully knowing the extent of what they would be facing takes a certain type of character and we must be thankful for the standard of police training and policing in general in the UK. The comforting thing is that we can expect to see greater police numbers in our towns and cities so that when the next such event occurs, the response time will be further reduced and hopefully the only casualties will be the terrorists.

It’s sad that as life and technology continues to evolve, we cannot rid ourselves of one of the things that is wrecking lives and families on an all-too regular basis. We must not under-estimate the levels of persuasion involved into coercing someone to be willing to die for their ‘cause’ and until we can reverse the education process and get to the hearts and minds of those at risk of radicalisation, things are unlikely to change. Thankfully, there are some great organisations out there based within local communities which are doing just that, such as The Active Change Foundation (ACF). When I visited CEO Hanif Qadir at the ACF HQ a few years ago, he showed me the excellent work that his and other such organisations were doing to identify those young Muslims at the greatest risk of being radicalised. Making a difference from within has to be a great starting point.

Mark Corder, Cognitious Security Consultant.

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