Foreign analysts not exclude possibility of terrorists’ transition to large-scale attacks
2 November 2017. PenzaNews. Terrorist groups are planning another huge terror attack in the US on the same scale as 9/11, the acting US Homeland Security chief Elaine Duke said at the US embassy in London.
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“The terrorist organizations, be it ISIS [the Islamic State, Daesh; banned in Russia] or others, want to have the big explosion like they did on 9/11. They want to take down aircraft, the intelligence is clear on that,” said Elaine Duke on October 19.
She also added that terrorists will still use smaller, low-level attacks that include the use of everyday objects like knives and vehicles to remain in the Media and provide the flow of finances.
In confirmation of what was said – after this statement –there were at least two incidents in the US, which are now being considered possible terrorist attacks: the incident with a truck hitting pedestrians in New York on October 31, which killed at least eight people; and a murder of a woman in Manhattan on November 1 by an unknown person who then committed suicide. In addition, one attack was prevented – the FBI counterterrorism detachment arrested a man October 22 on accusations that he planned to detonate a bomb at a mall in Miami.
However, commenting on the likely change of terrorists’ tactics, Professor Clive Williams from the Australian National University stressed that at present the implementation of a large-scale terrorist attack is unlikely.
“No terrorist group today has the capability to mount a major attack on the scale of 9/11. An attack killing several hundred people is a possibility,” the expert told PenzaNews.
In his opinion, most ISIS attacks “are amateurish and do not result in mass casualties.”
“When they have killed large numbers it has been achieved with external assistance or when the perpetrators have gained lethal experience in Syria and Iraq. ISIS seems focused on punishing members of the US-led coalition and setting up new areas of influence. Al-Qaeda (AQ) is in rebuilding mode but planning to take advantage of ISIS’ reverses,” Clive Williams explained.
According to him, the highest level of terrorist threat exists in the states where Muslim minorities are disaffected with government.
“The most vulnerable countries are those with disaffected Muslim minorities, particularly where they have legitimate grievances against the government,” the analyst said.
Meanwhile, Tomas Olivier, Manager Counterterrorism and Intelligence at the Amsterdam based company Twickelerveld Intelligence and Investigations, suggested that Elaine Duke’s statement was not quite accurately formulated.
“I would argue that Elaine Duke carefully chose the way to express herself and that her statement is based on information and intelligence obtained by numerous US and foreign intelligence services. Obviously a variety of networks is still trying to execute large-scale terrorist attacks with the possibility to inflict mass casualties. […] At the same a network of terrorist hubs transferred its focus more than ever to a combination of 'directed and inspired' terrorist attacks into the Western hemisphere, with a modus operandi, in this endeavor, that seems to be directed at a combination of the 'melee attack', the vehicle attack and or the so-called small arms fire attack,” the expert said.
So a quick and continuous cycle of violence with a constant destabilizing effect on western democracies and their population, rather than a lengthy planning process with the singular focus on mass casualties, he said.
“This change in modus operandi is also intrinsically the result of the 'heat' these networks feel with regards to more the sophisticated law enforcement and counterterrorist operations,” Tomas Olivier stressed.
Meanwhile, from his point of view, the intensity and the amount of terrorist attacks on a global scale confronted us with a deteriorated security situation in comparison with the pre 9/11 situation.
“The rise of ISIS and the 'exportation' of Islamic terrorist hubs into the streets of Western Europe made the world more vulnerable. Additionally the rise if ISIS in the Far East and Boko Haram in Western Africa contributed to the enormous annual growth of terrorist casualties,” the analyst added.
According to him, the most worrying factor at the moment is the re-establishment of the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban and the rise if Al-Qaeda both on the Arabian Peninsula as well as in Africa.
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“So I believe that Elaine Duke provided us with a likely and very possible scenario for the upcoming years. Additionally the focus of organizations like AQ, AQAP and AQIM to initiate 'catastrophic' terrorism and their 'weapon of choice' will be intensified into the direction of the cyber- and chemical/biological domain,” the expert said.
In turn, Rohan Gunaratna, Professor at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, Head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, shared the view on the potential change in the activity of ISIS members in the direction of increasing the number of victims.
“For high impact, ISIS is planning major attacks in parallel with homegrown strikes,” the Singaporean analyst said.
In his opinion, the ISIS militants have now reached a much higher level than the members of Al-Qaeda.
“The threat has grown several folds after 9/11. Al-Qaeda is a kindergarten group compared to ISIS,” Rohan Gunaratna stressed.
In turn, Julian Richards, Co-Director, Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies (BUCSIS), University of Buckingham, suggested that Elaine Duke's statement was not supported by any concrete intelligence about the forthcoming operation.
“Elaine Duke is not communicating a specific piece of intelligence, I suspect, but merely reiterating the fact that we need to expect the unexpected and remain vigilant about ISIS, even when they are losing territory on the ground,” the expert explained.
According to him, terrorists have more recently been concentrating on low-signature, low-sophistication attacks, which are very difficult for states to predict and mitigate.
“Such attacks are very effective in spreading fear and panic, and are cheap and easy to execute. There have also been some more organised attacks, often involving individuals with combat experience and training in Iraq or Syria, such as the attacks in Paris, Brussels and Manchester. [Elaine] Duke's analysis that these attacks keep things going while the terrorist organisations such as ISIS attempt to plan something much bigger, is probably true. Whether they will manage to mount a ‘spectacular’ on the same level as 9/11 remains to be seen, but it will continue to be very difficult for them to do so given the intensity of counter-terrorist measures,” Julian Richards said.
“In the UK, the chief of the MI5 domestic security agency recently said that the threat now is the most intense he has seen in his 30-years career. This is probably true, as there is, no doubt, a serious threat of sudden, low-sophistication attacks, especially in Western cities, the likes of which we have seen several times over the last 2–3 years,” the analyst added.
ISIS will continue to pose a serious threat as the inspiration and instigator of such attacks despite its military losses in Iraq and Syria, he said.
“Indeed, it could be entering a more dangerous period where it concentrates more on attacking the countries that have been instrumental in its demise on the ground, which very much includes Russia given the very significant role the country has played in pro-Assad operations within Syria. At the same time, we shouldn't panic too much in my opinion, and we should remember that in the big picture, there have been periods in history where the terrorist threat has been much greater than now, such as the 1970s when Palestinian terrorism was at its height,” the expert reminded.
In his opinion, one of the most interesting things to watch over the next months and years is how the ISIS organisation changes and transforms in the light of its virtual extinction on the ground in Iraq and Syria.
“Most commentators believe that it will increasingly think about expanding into other regions, such as South Asia for example, and that it will try to transform itself into a virtual-world inspirational threat for young jihadists across the world, very much in the mould of the traditional Al-Qaeda organisation in recent years. In some ways, however, it likes to differentiate itself from Al-Qaeda and to concentrate more on obtaining physical presence on the ground, so it might face a bit of a dilemma in competing with Al-Qaeda in the jihadist market. One thing is for sure: we are entering a new period in the terrorist evolution and none of us can be completely sure about what will happen,” Julian Richards concluded.