Saturday, June 3, 2017

Another major terror attack in London England. Vehicle ramming attack followed up with mass stabbings.

Police interview survivors of the attack in London. Reuters.

In yet another major terror attack, several people were injured in a combined vehicle ramming and mass stabbing incident on the London Bridge and in the Borough Market in London, UK. Reuters. London police advised civilians to "run, hide, tell" as the attack occurred. Casualties haven't been confirmed but the most recent reports say that six civilians died and three of the attackers were shot dead. The attackers, numbering at least three, drove a van into crowds of people walking on London Bridge. They than jumped out and began stabbing people at random in the Borough Market. Though nobody has taken credit for the attack, the tactics matches ISIS, who called on supporters to attack westerners through similar means. The attack comes on the heels of two other major terror attacks in the UK, the Westminster bridge attack that used similar tactics and the suicide bombing at the Araina Grande concert in Manchester. 

This is a breaking news story and several outlets have live updates:

My Comment:
Another major terrorist attack in Europe and it seems that this one was a clone of the previous Westminster attack. The main difference in that attack is the stabbing attacks were directed at police stationed in Westminster while this case involved random civilians who just happened to be in the Borough Market district. 

Though the final casualty figures haven't been released as of this writing, it seems that it was a fairly successful attack. The three attackers were able to cause quite a bit of chaos with the ramming attack and continued to cause chaos with their stabbing attack. This attack wasn't very sophisticated but it was a bit more complex than other similar attacks. The fact that there were three attackers instead of one shows me that this was probably a larger plot and obviously not a lone wolf attack. 

I do have to wonder about the response to this attack. Though armed police did eventually shoot and kill at least two of the suspects, I also saw reports of cops fleeing from the attackers because they were unarmed. I can't confirm those eyewitness accounts but the fact that it was even possible is mind boggling to me. 

Even more mind boggling to me is when I pointed out on twitter that a stabbing attack can be defended against by having armed cops, people tried to argue that doing so would end with unjustified shootings. Another said sarcastically that he doesn't leave the house without a .45... which I though would have been great advice for anyone currently living in the UK and had the option. Unfortunately you can't even carry a knife in the UK, so nobody besides the armed police had a good option to defend themselves... That being said, it seems like it is long beyond time for UK cops to all be armed with guns, even if it is unlikely that the civilians themselves will ever get back their right to self defense.

As for the greater context for this attack, it's fairly obvious that this is part of a string of attacks during Ramadan. We have had at least three major ones, including this one. There was also two major bombings in Afghanistan, one a massive truck bombing that killed 90 people in Kabul along with a bombing in Baghdad. There was also the chaos happening in the Philippines. Finnaly, there is the ongoing siege in Marawi city and it's possible that the Resorts World Casino arson attack in Manila might have been an ISIS terror attack as well. The London attack also comes on the heels of two other major terrorist attacks in the UK, the Westminster attack and the bombing at the Ariana Grande concert. 

Ramadan is only in it's second week. We will likely see more attacks like this in the coming days and weeks. Though ISIS hasn't taken credit for this attack yet, they are putting out quite a bit of propaganda out right now calling for attacks during the Islamic holy month. We are very likely to see more of these attacks, both by core ISIS cells like the ones that pulled off the Afghan attacks and the lone wolf and homegrown terror attacks like the Westminster attacks. It is unclear which group the current attack belongs to, but the end result seems to be the same. 

Why attack during Ramadan? Well, in Islam martyrdom and fighting for Islam is considered to be more meaningful when it happens during the Islamic holy month. Though Ramadan also involves fasting and reflection, radical Muslims do think that their deaths will have more meaning if it happens during Ramadan. 

There is also the psychological impact as well. When multiple terror plots hit at close to the same time, along with smaller lone wolf attacks by ISIS supporters instead of members, it greatly increases the effect of the attacks. Five attacks spread over the course of a year might frighten people, but having those five attacks in the same week makes it seem like this is the new normal. Ultimately the pace of attacks isn't sustainable but concentrating attacks during one month makes them much more effective. Using Ramadan as the excuse just makes the impact even worse. 

I also think that in the future, historians will recognize this period as the opening salvos of a greater war between Europe and radical Islam. Theses aren't really criminal matters anymore, they are an insurgency and the pace of attacks is fairly dire. I don't think things are sustainable as they are. People will eventually get mad and then it's very possible that there will be reprisal attacks. That could lead to civil war... 

In more positive news, this attack doesn't seem to be as successful as other similar attacks. The standard for vehicle attacks still continues to be the Nice attack, that killed 86 people and wounded scores more. Why was that one worse than this one? My guess is the choice of vehicle and choice of target. In Nice the attacker used a very large semi-truck and targeted an event were hundreds of people were on the streets. In this case there were a lot of people walking around, but not nearly as many, and the smaller vehicle probably didn't quite pack as much of a punch. 

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