While the biggest terrorist attack in recent days was in Kabul where at least 80 were killed and 231 wounded in a suicide attack on a Hazara minority crowd who were demonstrating against inadequate power infrastructure in their home villages, we worry more about attacks in France and Germany, because their societies are more like ours.
We need to look at the evidence in each case, to see what we can learn. To take the last first, police believe the Munich killings were linked to the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik rather than to IS:
- Police who searched the 18-year-old’s room say they found written material on attacks.
The gunman, who later killed himself, had a 9mm Glock pistol and 300 bullets.
Police are investigating whether he may have lured his victims through a Facebook invitation to a restaurant.
He is suspected of using a fake account under a girl’s name to invite people to the McDonald’s restaurant where he launched his attack.
The perpetrator had been obsessed with mass killings, they said. Also:
- Police say the gunman had been in psychiatric care, receiving treatment for depression.
Seven of the dead were teenagers, three from Kosovo, three from Turkey and one from Greece.
The perpetrator was born in Munich, a dual German-Iranian national, who shouted anti-foreigner slurs and yelled “I’m German” at a man who challenged him..
More may be revealed later.
Authorities and the people in Germany had been alert and alarmed by an incident in a train near Würzburg on Monday that left five people injured. A 17 year-old asylum seeker used a knife and an axe to attack Chinese tourists, and was duly shot by police. Ostensibly he was an Afghani, but may have been a Pakistani who pretended to be Afghani to improve his chances of gaining asylum, and may have been older than 17.
The name he used, and was registered under in Germany, was different from the one used by IS in claiming responsibility. He had initially been thought of as self-radicalising, but a video had appeared foreshadowing the attack.
- German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told reporters in Berlin Wednesday that the attacker appeared to have acted alone, but was goaded by propaganda from the “Islamic State” group. De Maiziere confirmed that a video of the young man circulated by “IS” supporters was authentic, but it was not yet clear when it was filmed.
“It is perhaps a case that occupies a grey area between a crazed rampage and a terrorist act,” de Maiziere said.
The incident has raised questions about unaccompanied minors, many of whom are economic refugees.
- According to a study published in April by Germany’s Friedrich Ebert Foundation, about 154,000 Afghan citizens migrated to Germany in 2015, of whom 32,000 applied for asylum. More than 120,000 Afghan citizens remained in Germany without authorisation or had moved on to other countries, according to the study.
The study found that most Afghan migrants were young and male. The majority of family members who were interviewed for the survey said they had fled their country because of the economic situation.
Joel Schalit, News Editor of EurActiv.com, talks about:
- trauma that many refugees carry with them to Europe. Murder, torture, homelessness, impoverishment – every conceivable wound imaginable, consistently received across a vast geography, from Pakistan all the way to Syria.
The psychological damage the refugees are bringing with them is comparable to that of Holocaust survivors, and survivors of aerial bombardments of Europe’s cities during WWII. Perhaps even more so, given the duration of the conflict, which is now over three times as long as the war.
Some of these damaged young men don’t need much to radicalise them. The press has picked up the term “self radicalisation”.
Riaz Khan Ahmadzai, the Würzburg perpetrator, arrived in 2015, was fostered by a German family, had an apprenticeship, appeared to be integrating, but left a letter vowing to take revenge on the infidels and kill them in their own homes.
In the Nice attack, where 84 people were killed by a truck, it was at first thought of as a lone act by a mentally unstable person, given to personal violence, who had recently been radicalised.
Now it seems five others assisted him and he’d been planning the attack for over a year. For the full story, see the report by Ann Barker on ABC RN’s The World Today.
It’s not clear, however, that those assisting constituted, were part of, or were linked to organised terrorist groups.
Whatever the causes and the motivation, three attacks on civilians in eight days.
So what do we do?
Malcolm Turnbull says we’ll have have to re-think how large gatherings of people can be protected, and he’s also following up a recommendation that ASIO (Australian Security Intelligence Organisation) should have access to terrorist suspects’ mental health records.
Jacinta Carroll, head of the Counter Terrorism Policy Centre at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, says anyone organising mass events will need to think about such things as physical security and the possible role of first responders.
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, interviewed by Der Spiegel, said Germany would continue to have its carnival parades, football matches, church congresses and Oktoberfest, but security would be more in evidence, they would do what they could, but “no constitutional state in the world is in a position to prevent every crime, every massacre or every terrorist act with absolute certainty.”
Cindy Wockner, writing for News Corp, brings some useful perspective.
Some things once seen cannot be unseen, for example this picture from Nice:
We don’t know the story of the image, may never know, but with it comes fear and the realisation that it could happen anywhere:
- Where will it happen next? How do we stop it? Why is it happening? So many questions, so few answers. Too many tears, so much hatred and too many ill-informed commentators.
No easy answers.
According to the latest Global Terrorism Index in 2014 a total of 78 per cent of those killed by terrorists were in just five countries — Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria.
Some 30 of the 84 victims in Nice were Muslim.
- at the end of the day, preaching separation and calling for a halt to Muslim immigration only plays into the hands of those who wish to harm us. It makes the Muslim community feel alienated and less likely to trust authority, therefore less likely to report suspicious activity to authorities who are then, as a result, less likely to stop it. We know this because the police tell us. Police agencies need intelligence to operate.
And we need to learn how to talk about terrorism and our fears. George Brandis, for once, made a useful contribution. He defined “terrorism” as:
- an act or threat of violence motivated by an ideological cause to coerce government or intimidate the public.
He declined to call the Munich incident terrorism.
It’s worth another post, but there was the controversy sparked by Andrew Bolt, who wants to restrict Muslim immigration, linking Muslim populations with terrorist attacks, and breakfast host Sonia Kruger, who agreed with him. Then came Waleed Aly, who upset some people with his notion of ‘radical empathy’, of accepting, understanding, and I think “forgiving” Kruger’s fears, to break the cycle of anger and hatred.
Good luck, Waleed, people love their right to be angry!
Of course, it’s what they do with their anger that matters, as Uri Freedman who picked up the story at The Atlantic says.
It’s worth a read.
By the way, the Kabul attack was IS, not the Taliban, the first of its kind in that country. That is a worry.
Update: Back in 2014 I did a piece Terrorism deaths in perspective, based on an article by Bernard Keane in Crikey:
- In the 10 years from 2003 to 2012 a total of 417 people in Australia died from falling out of bed, 230 from falling off ladders and 198 from falling off chairs. Rational analysis tells us that we are more at risk from ourselves and our loved ones than from terrorists. Suicides come in at 22,800 and homicides at 2,617. Somewhere between 700 and 1000 women and children have been killed by their parents or partners.