Does west fail to prevent lone-wolf attacks?


By Pramod Raj Sedhain.


Islamic State’s lone wolf terrorism in west is increasingly becoming trendy. After series of losses in its overall operational capabilities in the central and franchise capture areas, the Islamic State terrorist outfit has encouraged lone-wolf attack against the west. Lone terrorist attack against the west has been Islamic State’s (IS) top priority.

Recently IS claimed responsibility for the September 17 lone-wolf stabbings in the Minnesota Mall in the United States. They claimed credit for the devastating Orlando nightclub shooting on June 12, 2016, which is so far the biggest and deadliest attack on U.S. soil since 9/11 terrorist attacks. IS also claimed credit for the San Bernardino attack on December 2, 2015. Despite all necessary Counter-Terrorism (CT) measures effective to thwart dozens of coordinated terrorist attacks, the U.S and EU security forces failed to prevent Lone-Wolf terrorist attacks.

The U.S has not only been a victim of IS-inspired lone-wolf attacks, even Europe has faced worst terrorist attacks ever. Wave of attacks against France (Paris & Nice), Germany (Wuerzburg & Ansbach), and attack on police officers in Belgium’s Charleroi proves that it is not easy to thwart the lone-wolf terrorist attacks. IS senior leaders have continued to urge its followers to carry out attacks against the West. Its propaganda machine intensifies its effort to encourage radical environments and instructs its followers to inspire lone wolf attacks. IS has relied on lone wolf attacks to ‘take revenge’ against the West.

Combating today’s terrorism is very complex. Western security forces have been facing new invisible terrorism phenomena. Terrorism threat – growing from online radicalization – poses threats from lone -wolf. Counter terrorism (CT) officials face difficult tasks to uncover new lone terrorist plots. Spread of violence inspirational propaganda content on the Internet and group leaders’ message on an instruction sources to lone-wolf attackers. Loners terror operatives cannot be an under the routine counter terrorism radar. Detection of such self-radicalized alone operatives have been a challenge for CT forces.

Islamic State has more of a silk propaganda than al-Qaeda and its slain leader Anwar al-Awlaki who were been a headache for the U.S. CT agencies in 2000s. IS has been accelerating the same ideas but in a more organized and effective manner. IS propaganda machine picked number of propagandists and several forms of attractive propaganda operations, which regularly inspire terrorist attacks against the West. Dozens of IS propagandists and large part of propaganda media outlets have taken off by U.S. but there are still dozens of al-Awalaki which is necessary to be immediately removed from the propaganda battlefield.

This trend is likely to increase after it defeats the ground and transforms its organization to decentralized forms. Despite different circumstances, lone-wolf terrorist individual’s path to radicalization, motivation, ideological mind, inspire or overall attack patterns appears the very same. Dealing of IS instructed lone-wolf terrorist attack against west is becoming a major challenge for the CT forces. But western CT forces have remained focused on large scale coordinated attacks plotted by the central level of the terrorist group. Question remains: Can’t the security forces do anything do prevent lone-wolf attacks?

How can we stop this deadliest phenomenon?

There is no role model to counter lone–wolf terrorism. CT strategies have been still searching possible ways of prevent such future attacks. Prevention of lone attacks is certainly very difficult but not impossible. Effective mass-base counter terrorism measures could reduce such horrific tragedies. Unpredictable lone-wolf attacks cannot prevent without stopping terrorists online contents and aggressive mass base ideological battle.

CT forces must focus on grassroots of radicalization. Online realization is still vulnerable and without eradicating this risk, counter terrorism agencies cannot prevent further lone-wolf terrorist attacks. Different security and social approaches could be effective to counter jihadist mindset. Effective de-radicalization/rehabilitation program along with social-religious components is required to counter lone-wolf threats. This growing nightmare will not cease only with the efforts of counterterrorism agencies or security forces. It requires mass public support and collective efforts.

24/7 surveillance on terrorist suspects in the Western world is becoming complex owing to the rapid increase in the number of suspects’ list. Inside information on terror suspects to law enforcement authority is necessary to prevent lone wolf attacks. Introduction of flexible and loose network could help gather wide variety of information through suspects’ family members, relatives, friends, neighbors, community figures, teachers, and medical to social service, etc. Such support from general public requires full informers’ protect system in a fully informal way to avoid the person from facing further questioning by security or judiciaries.

Electronic communication tracking system only cannot effective to thwart the lone wolf attack but public support from various sectors is a must. Any CT measures should not be hampered to the principles of liberal democratic society. Small public information has led to thwart of a number of terrorist plots. Suspects might change their way of thinking and their daily life. They might seek help from different actors to acquire more lethal weapons and explosives, might survey of locations or change their behaviors. Large number of suspects’ personal surveillance cannot be done by small counter terrorism units everywhere; neither gain individual changing way of violence thinking. Western counter-terrorism agencies still focus on preventing large-scale coordinate terrorist attacks rather than individual-based approach.

Detecting and disrupting an individual’s plan is not easy task without public help. Preventing logistic preparation of suspects and cut off access of weapons to radicalized angry men is necessary to prevent similar types of future attacks. Wide range of suspects tracking mechanism is necessary considering the growing nexus between the terrorist networks and criminal gangs. Some criminals – turned into terrorist ideology and carried out lone-wolf attacks also suggests further vigilance from multi-dimensional ways. Such patterns require restructuring of traditional criminal record system in the West.

Despite counter-terrorism officials’ close attention on possible IS plots against the West, the terrorist networks have been using organized criminal gangs to obtain its logistics and human infliction through trafficking or other travel methods. Without preventing such types of suspects, entering the West could be very lethal in near future. EU must outline possible responses to such trained radicals to prevent further lone-wolf attacks. Clues of such long trained lone suicide perpetrator are almost not possible to acquire but can gain information from direct ground source and terrorist group propaganda outlets.

Social media organizations require to keeping a new active mechanization to immediately remove the terrorists content in their platforms. Systematically endorsing modern de-radicalization program to prevent home-grown terrorists should be the priority. Launch on aggressive anti-extremist propaganda online campaign is also necessary to combat terrorist violence. Better security is more important than personal liberties but it does not mean all individual will sacrifice their privacy. Security forces have key responsibilities to protection of civil liberties and civilians too have equal duty to support counter terrorism efforts.

Success of counter-terrorism is in fact difficult as perceived. It does not have a quick-fix ready-made solution. Counter-terrorism efforts have several limits in changing the nature of terror groups, its trans-boundary characteristics, deadly tactics and unfolding turmoil situation on the ground. Only military components or measures cannot defeat terrorism. It requires different strategies and ideas.

IS is still encouraging attacks against world and circulation of instructions which appears on online on a daily basis. In fact, Muslim religious leaders must initiate a campaign against terrorism propaganda. Muslim leaders, imams, scholars, media, teachers and activists need to start responding against terrorist manipulation on religion. Diverse Muslim communities can start ideological battles against terrorist groups with a broader counter extremism concept. Without broader ideologically driven response against radical inspire, Lone-Wolf attack will continue even if they lose their core operational capabilities.


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