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By Mo. Babajide-Alabi
Published in the Sunday Vanguard (April 3rd, 2016)
Terrorism has again managed “front row attention” in the international media. In the past two weeks, there have been terrorist attacks that claimed innocent lives, leaving the world and the leaders baffled and shocked with unspoken questions on their lips. They also momentarily brought trepidation to the ordinary men and women on the streets.
There seem to be no let-up, no matter how “hard” the security forces around the world try, terrorism is increasingly becoming part of everyday lives.
We now look over our shoulders everywhere we go while trying to play safe. If there is an opportunity to ask those who died as a result of terrorist attacks why they did not play safe, they would tell you, terrorists are cowards, they rarely chose their victims. Precaution is mainly effective when you know where an attack is coming from. Making it worse is the fact that terrorists do not announce their itineraries.
From the Metro Station in Brussels to the crowded park in Lahore or a village of North-Eastern Nigeria, tens of innocent victims have been murdered by terrorists. These criminals have no respect for human lives, – theirs or victims’. The religious terrorists, which are common nowadays, claim they are fighting holy wars on behalf of God. To a reasonable human being, it is hard to explain the rationale behind fighting God’s war in the most violent manner. They claim they are out to “wipe out” unbelievers. However, most times (if not all the time) they are not discriminatory in their acts, as they affect men, women and children of a different faith.
These terrorists brought sorrow and pain again when they struck in Brussels and Lahore. The attacks, by the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Taliban were more or less similar in execution. The March 22 Brussels attack, which could as well be “revenge” attacks on the Belgian authorities, for the arrest of Salah Abdeslam, the surviving terrorist of the November 13, 2015 attack in Paris, France killed over 32 people of different nationalities and three suicide bombers leaving many injured.
In a similar vein, the March 29 terrorist (park) attack in Lahore (Pakistan), which a splinter group of the Taliban had claimed responsibility for, is reported to have killed more than 70 people and many also injured. The attack, according to the group, was directed at the Christian community as they trooped out to the park to celebrate Easter. The scene of the carnage in Lahore brought back the memories of the recent Brussels attack, as people searched among the debris for their loved ones.
Earlier on the world had celebrated with Belgium for the arrest of Abdeslam. It was joy all over the world, especially among the relatives of the victims of the Paris attack. The arrest of Abdeslam was dramatic as he had managed to evade security forces for over four months. He was said not have made much of a big effort to evade arrest, as he ‘chilled out’ in the Molenbeek neighbourhood where he grew up. These and many other bunglings have attracted condemnation of the Belgian authorities.
The Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, sitting alongside French President Francois Hollande was quick to play down on this lapse, when he gleefully appeared at a Word Press Conference and announced that they “got” Abdeslam. Without prompting, we all clapped for him and his men.
The celebration was however shortlived as the Brussels attack came very fast, leaving the Belgian security and intelligience agencies dumbfounded, once again. It was a slight defeat to the fight against terrorism. For a moment it seemed the terrorists “were winning”, as bodies were flung far and near from the impact of three coordinated nail bombings in the Belgian city.
In a show of defiance and solidarity, the citizens of Belgium and the world at large came together to denounce terrorism, as the manhunt for the surviving perpetrators began.
A terrorist attack on Belgium had been anticipated immediately after the November Paris attack. It would be recalled that the city of Brussels, and more or less the whole country was on security lockdown for days. Shops, offices, schools and public transportation were all closed down. This, was informed by the fact that most of the Paris terrorists were of Belgian nationality or had extensive connection with Brussels. However, the “expected” attack did not happen at the time.
Recent terrorism activities are showing steady rise in Europe and this has brought the reality of terrorism closer than before. Europe is now increasingly becoming a playground for young, homegrown terrorists, who are either swayed by the glamour propaganda of the IS or just being plain stupid. Over a span of three years, the continent has witnessed terrorism on the scale that was unprecedented before. From London to Paris to Belgium, residents walk with their hearts in their mouths. A look at the background of the dead and “wanted” terrorists in Europe reveal that they were mainly homegrown.
The various European governments do recognise the fact that this is a serious problem. In Britain, the fear of homegrown terrorism seem to be the beginning of wisdom for the government and the security agencies, that have been working round the clock to diabuse the minds of, especially young moslems to the propaganda of IS. The public have been told severally that Britain would have been subjected to various attacks if not for the vigilance of the security agencies.
Trying to understand the reason behind the rise of homegrown terrorists has not progressed beyond the excuse that the IS propaganda ‘machine’ has been very active and had glamorise terrorism to the younger folks. This might be true, but the attacks in France and Belgium have also thrown up the case of marginalisation of these young moslem folks. Observers agree that there is a growing connection between terrorism, religion, social discontent and poverty. (A topic for another day).
In the midst of the pandemonium that followed these terrorists acts came Egypt-born Seif al-Din Mustafa. A petty criminal who decided to up his game, become a super hero and write himself into history books. Mustafa, whose real intentions are still unknown, had a brain wave and decided to hijack an EgyptAir plane travelling from Alexandria to Cairo. He commandeered the plane to Lanarca, in Cyprus, with the threat that he had a “explosive belt” on him, and not shy to detonate it.
The hijacker was said to have requested to see his ex-wife who, according to news sources she had not seen for so many years. Among other demands Mustafa was reported to have made was an audience with United Nations officials to avoid prosecutions, and also the release of all female prisoners in his home country.
Thank God the nightmare ended for the passengers and crew after a five hour stand off. Mustafa gave himself up, while it was discovered that his “explosive belt” was fake and only had mobile phone covers. But is Mustafa a fool for love? Or he was on a “dry run? One thing I know is he seem to be enjoying his “celebrity” status in Cyprus where he is on trial, judging by his wide grin and the victory sign he gave the cameras as he was taken away from court.
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