A Triple Threat: Attacks in Manchester, Jakarta and in the Philippines
It seems that these terrorist attacks are growing more and more frequent this year as the international arena has been rocked with three terrorist attacks within a few days of each other.
Indonesia saw two bombings across the capital that killed three people and injured twelve, while Britain saw a suicide bombing at a Manchester concert which killed 22 and injured 59. Finally, the president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, imposed martial law on the island of Mindanao after militants linked to ISIS seized control of the city of Marawi in a raid.
The consistent recurrence of these senseless acts of terrorism has shown that the present method the world is using to combat ISIS is not working.
On May 24, two men set off two separate bomb blasts in the capital city of Jakarta during the Islamic festival of Ramadan. Although Indonesia had been hit by terrorist attacks before, such as in January of this year, the previous attacks had been more spontaneous than similar attacks across the globe. That is, experts determined that the individuals behind these attacks were not acting under ISIS’s orders.
This one was far more organized as the two bombs went off within five minutes of each other at two different points across the city. Individuals such as National Police spokesman Awi Setiyono speculate that the success of the prior attacks in the Philippines and in Manchester may have energized the dormant terrorist cells in the country.
Since Indonesia is the country with the largest number of Muslims anywhere in the world, the recent attacks have underscored the risk of ISIS continuing to radicalize individuals around the world. Furthermore, the location of these attacks has shown that no country, regardless of religious affiliation, is safe from terrorism in this day and age.
The attack has also returned the focus of international security on the threat that foreign fighters who have gone to Syria to join ISIS. Experts fear that these individuals might return, newly radicalized, back to their native countries at some point in time. Although Indonesian investigators have not been able to find any evidence that the two attackers received orders from Syria, there are links between the attackers and Jemaah Ansharut Daulah, an organization which has many ISIS supporters in its ranks.
Next, the Philippines recently saw a terrorist attack of its own. On Tuesday, May 23rd, 100 armed militants swept into the city of Marawi, murdered a police officer as well as twenty others and kidnapped a priest and the parishioners in his church. The militants’ allegiance soon became clear when they hoisted the ISIS flag above the city after the initial assault was over.
Filipino authorities strongly believe that the recent police raid on the hideout of Isnilon Hapilon, the head of an Islamic militant group in the Philippines with ties to ISIS, had something to do with the recent raid.
This supposition is further underscored by the fact that Marawi is a city where a majority of the population is Muslim and the fact that ISIS seeks to impose their view of Islam not just on the rest of the world but also on other Muslims as well. Furthermore, the island of Mindanao, where the attack took place, has had a problem with Islamic insurgencies for decades. For the Philippines, this is not a new phenomenon at all.
In response to the brazen assault, President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in the region and soon threatened to expand it to the rest of the country. Such a radical move has produced fears among some older Filipinos who still remember the martial law and its abuses during the Ferdinand Marcos years.
In addition, external observers have expressed their fears that President Duterte, whose adherence to democratic values and the rule of law has been shaky, might use this incident to increase his own authority. President Duterte responded to these fears by saying that citizens that followed the law would not be harmed and any instances of abuse would be strictly punished.
Finally, the most well-covered terrorist incident in the recent week is the attack on a Manchester concert on May 22nd. A diverse group of people including parents and their children were at an Ariana Grande concert when a bomb blast went off. Despite initial beliefs by some that the explosion was caused by a defective speaker, it quickly became clear that the reality was far, far worse. This was no ordinary bomb but rather a nail bomb.
As a result, when the bomb was detonated, thousands of nails flew out of the container around the crowded concert hall. Although this type of weapon’s use in terrorist attacks is not new, as shown by Professor John Merriman in his book, The Dynamite Club, this is one of the first times in recent memory that ISIS has used such a weapon. Unfortunately, the impact of the bomb in such a crowded place has shown that this form of weapon is quite effective.
After the impact of these terrible events, public opinion is once again divided over how to address the constantly recurring problem of terrorist attacks. While some individuals, including Katy Perry, have advocated for “co-existence” and an end to any form of “barriers or borders,” critics have argued that this approach is doomed to failure.
Rather, these individuals, such as Professor Haroon Ullah, have argued that the real problem is the force that impels certain groups of Muslims to radicalize against the country in which they live.
Whether it is a desire to be “politically correct” or some other, less clear reason, world leaders have been hesitant to call a spade a spade and to identify the real problem. Until they do so, these attacks will continue to happen and the evidence clearly shows that ignoring the problem does not make the problem go away.