New York Terrorist Attack: What measures can be taken to prevent vehicle attacks?

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In the late afternoon on Tuesday 31st October 2017, Sayfullo Saipov, an Uzbek citizen who arrived in the US in2010 and became a legal US resident, drove a truck down a cycleway in lower Manhattan, New York, killing 8 people and injuring 11 more. After crashing the truck, Saipov emerged from the vehicle wielding a pellet gun and paintball gun. NYPD officers shot Saipov who received serious but non-fatal injuries and was arrested. The cosmopolitan make-up of New York was seen in the victims where five of those killed were Argentinian and another victim who died was Belgian. Within an hour of the attack New York authorities declared this was a terrorist incident. Saipov left a note in the truck claiming he committed the attack on behalf of the group Islamic state (IS), adding ‘ISIS lives forever’. At the time of writing IS have yet to claim responsibility for the attack, but as I have said in previous blogs, IS do claim responsibility for many attacks where they do not give direct orders or have any direct contact with the attacker.

Möglicher Anschlag mit Lastwagen auf Weihnachtsmarkt

Once more we have witnessed an attack where a vehicle has been driven into people. We have seen a number of attacks of this nature in the last 18 months from Nice, July 2016, the Berlin Christmas Market, December 2016, three attacks in the UK in 2017, Stockholm, April 2017, Barcelona, August 2017 and now New York. In total these attacks have killed 136 people with many more injured.

This raises a number of questions, including if we should expect more of these type of attacks and, importantly, what can be done to prevent these attacks? To the first question it appears the answer is yes, we should expect more of these attacks to occur in the near future. It is an easy form of low-level attack to carry out that can have the maximum, impact in terms of casualties. In IS’ online magazine, Rumiyah, issue 3 contained an article detailing the best methods to use in preparing and carrying out a vehicle attack. Other issues have published articles on how to carry out the most effective knife attacks and in kidnapping western hostages. Even though IS has lost control of a lot of geographical territory, its propaganda media is still effective, especially in influencing individuals to follow IS’ narrative and carry out attacks in the group’s name. So, unfortunately it is highly likely that we will see more attacks of this nature.
In relation to whether anything can be done to prevent these types of attack we are approaching seasonal time of year in western states with events ranging from Thanksgiving celebrations in Canada and the US, Christmas Markets and other open air public events through to New Year’s Eve celebrations. It is of paramount importance that we all play our part in preventing attacks, not in leaving it solely to the security services and the policing agencies. Local governments and business should regularly review there contingency plans and where events are planned to ensure sufficient resilience has been built in to prevent terrorist attacks. This can range from ensuring sufficient and effective physical barriers as in place to having effective evacuation facilities.

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In the UK this comes under the Protect strand of the CONTEST counter-terrorism policy. With colleagues, I will be advocating this at the UK Security Expo 2017 exhibition that is being held at London’s Olympia exhibition centre 29th and 30th November 2017.

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I discuss the New York attacks and issues above in more details in my interview with BBC Radio Sheffield. The interview is 1 hour 9 minutes 10 seconds in

The £4 Billion Refurbishment of the Palace of Westminster: An Opportunity to Incorporate Sate of the Art Security

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The Palace of Westminster is to undergo a major refurbishment at a cost estimated to be between £4 billion – £7 billion that is due to start 2019-2020. It is not the first time that MP’s and Lords will have to move to temporary accommodation as following the 1834 fire that destroyed virtually all of the old Palace building MP’s were temporarily relocated to Buckingham Palace. Built during the 1840’s, the Palace does not have modern security provisions built into it. The major refurbishment is an excellent opportunity to ensure that this iconic old Parliament building will combine old world charm with contemporary security.

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You can read my discussion on this issue with Chris Summers from Sputnik News on the link.

Islamist Terrorism Conviction: Madihah Taheer

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Madihah Taheer, a 21 year-old woman who was married to Islamist Ummar Mazra was convicted on the 26th October at Woolwich Crown Court for plotting acts of terrorism that would have occurred in Birmingham. Mazra had earlier pleaded guilty to the offence and Taheer were arrested in march 2017, shortly after the Westminster bridge terrorist attack (the two incidents are not linked). Although Taheer denied the offence saying she was manipulated by Mazra and did not believe Mazra would carry out the attack, evidence presented by the prosecution at her trial revealed the opposite and that she was deeply imbued with the Islamist narrative of the group Islamic State.

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Following an MI5 operation tracking Mizra, he was arrested by the West Midlands Counter-Terrorism Unit  along with his sister for the offence. From Whats App conversations between Mizra and Taheer evidence revealed how there was little doubt that she was influenced by the violence in Islamic Sate’s narrative. For the UK 2017 has been a year where there have been five terrorist attacks, four influenced by Islamism, one allegedly by the extreme far right, but operations like this show how the UK’s security services and police are working on preventing further attacks from happening and the work they put into keeping the UK safe. We can all support them by reporting an suspicious activity to the Anti-Terrorism Hotline 0800 789 321

 

Parsons Green Terrorism Incident, London

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At 8.20 am (BST) on Friday 15th September 2017 an IED exploded on a London Underground train at Parsons Green station on the District Line injuring 29 people. Fortunately no one was killed or seriously injured. That may due in part to reports coming out that the IED was crudely made. This indicates it was constructed by a person with little or no experience or knowledge of explosives. Even though a timer was attached, again it was a basic, crude device. This has led to speculation as to whether Parsons Green was not the perceived target as Parsons Green has not been perceived as a location subject to a high risk of terrorist attacks as there are more likely high risk locations further down the District Line such as St. James Park, Westminster, Embankment or Temple.

The Metropolitan Police has confirmed the bomb attack is a terrorist incident. At the time of writing there is speculation as to who is responsible. This has not been helped by the US President, Donald Trump’s tweet earlier today saying, ‘Another attack in London by a loser terrorist. These are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard. Must be proactive.’ [My emphasis] There is no doubt that this incident has been committed by a person influenced by any form of extremist cause, not just an Islamist one.

I would be surprised if it was someone acting under the political cause of the extreme far right as it is not their style of attack, they tend to attack individuals (and it looks like they too are using vehicles as seen in Charlottesville, US and outside Finsbury Park mosque in London – allegedly). Also this type of attack could alienate any potential far right followers as the majority of victims would have been white UK citizens. Again, I think it is highly unlikely it is someone linked to dissident Irish republicanism such as the new IRA as dissident Irish republicans have never attempted this type of attack and during the Irish Troubles the Provisional IRA’s England Department gave coded warnings when targeting civilian targets. From what information that is released to date, I think this has been carried out by someone inspired by the Islamist narrative, potentially by Islamic State. It may seem strange the bomber did not stay with the device, looking to kill themselves in the explosion, but as we have seen in recent attacks in Europe like Barcelona last month, the terrorist escaped the scene. Recently the UK and other western states have suffered attacks by people inspired by the Islamist narrative who have not received any formal training at camps in the likes of Syria or Iraq, hence why we have seen low level attacks easy to carry out by using vehicles driven into crowds and knife attacks.

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One source of information Islamic State is using to inspire individuals and recruit them to their cause is the online magazine Rumiyah (Islamic for Rome).The first issue was published in September 2016 and apart from containing propaganda outlining their military actions in countries where they are losing territory, Rumiyah encourages Muslims to carry out their military jihad in western countries like the UK. To aid them, Rumiyah contains articles advising on the best and most effective ways to carry out attacks like those we have recently witnessed.

It is important that if the Parsons Green station attack is another Islamic State inspired attack that all Muslims are not treated with disdain or seen as potential terrorists or terrorist sympathisers, as nothing is further from the truth and this would play into Islamic State’s hands in their propaganda war. I know of many Imams who have barred radicals from their mosques and members if the Muslim community who have passed on information to the police of suspected terrorist activity. It is worth noting that Islamic State do not just kill the kuffar who are Christians, they have killed more Muslims than any other group, Muslims Islamic State see as the murtaddin (Muslims who reject Islam). Those that Islamic State as murtaddin are not Muslims who have rejected Islam, they are Muslims who have rejected Islamic State as the evil group they are. Islamic State have carried out pogroms on many Muslims, killing literally thousands such as Shia Muslims and Kurdish Muslims who they see as apostates.

What can we do to help with these attacks? If you are suspicious of anything or have a feeling something is not right report it to the police or security or phone the anti-terrorist hotline 0800 555 111. The police will handle all information with sensitivity and it is better to be safe than sorry.