Beware the lone wolves of terrorism


That famous message to the people of Britain as they endured night after night of the Luftwaffe bombing their houses into the ground reassured many a Briton during the Blitz. It resonated again on 7 July 2005 in the London underground and bus attacks by al-Qaida inspired militants. And no doubt again as Briton deals with the aftermath of another terrorist attack, it shall be on peoples minds yet again.

As we remember the victims of the 22 March 2017 terrorist attack outside Parliament in London, British authorities will be beginning to piece together how the lone attacker in the latest attack came to be a terrorist. They will be looking to see whether he has connections to any radical groups, his background and political views. They will be wanting to hear from his family, friends and others who knew him.

People will be understandably angry and upset that this happened in their home country. They will be demanding to know what can be done and will be done to avoid it happening again in the future. I hope that they are channeling their inner anger towards remembering Britain is a democracy and that there is no winners from clamping down on liberties, except the very terrorists the country claims to be fighting. The country that stood bravely with her colonies against the force of the German war machine in the early 1940’s before America and Russia came on board has been through worse and survived.

It shall survive this too.

But when the mourning ends and people start to move on, Britain will need to remember that this was a lone wolf type attack. It was the act of a single person acting on – so far as one can currently tell – their own accord. It was not by a group or large well funded organization such as Islamic State, even if they do approve of the attack. The attacker was armed with a knife. Notably he did not appear to have guns or explosive devices, which would have caused many more deaths, and raised questions about external funding, logistics and material support. Nor was the type of attack carried out original, with several such incidents involving vehicles being deliberately driven into crowds having occurred in other countries, namely France and Germany in 2016.

The lone wolf attacker is, in many ways more dangerous, as they cannot be easily spotted. They answer to no one – whereas a sleeper cell is usually connected in some way to a larger group or other cells, thus implying a chain of command exists. The same person is more mobile. They can go where they want, and might have used their own funds to buy what they needed to carry out the attack. Unless there were suspect purchases on credit card or whatever the British equivalent of an EFTPOS card is, finding the supplier or proving that those materials might have been used, is very difficult.

It also raises a whole lot of questions about far one should go – if at all – in curbing civil liberties. Does a state of emergency get declared? Do new rules about what can be done and not done in certain places get introduced? Do we have metal detectors at all major public places? As problematic as these questions are, I would be willing to bet they will be bouncing around in the heads of law makers and debating chambers across Britain in the coming days and weeks.

Are we going to stop all lone men and women from driving cars near the British Parliament just because a lunatic, who was apparently born in Britain went mad with a knife and hurt a whole lot of people? Not necessarily, but Britain should


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