Security Correspondent Dr Dave Sloggett looks at the real possibility of terrorist attacks on a number of forthcoming dates.

This year marks the 60th year since Her Majesty the Queen ascended to the throne. The Jubilee celebrations provide an opportunity for the British public to show their feelings about her service and dedication to the country. Sadly in today's uncertain world those celebrations will have to take place against a backdrop of increased security measures with which we have all had to become used to since the advent of trans-national terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and the resurgence of dissident Irish groups in Northern Ireland with their intent to re-commence a bombing campaign on the mainland.

For some involved in terrorism, anniversaries provide the ideal point at which to re-appear on the global stage. Mounting attacks on an anniversary adds weight to the significance of the event and will help ensure that the media give it additional coverage.

One example of this was the attack on 19th April 1995 on the FBI Hoover Building in Oklahoma. The perpetrator, Timothy McVeigh, deliberately targeted the FBI on the second anniversary of the end of the Waco siege in Texas. Despite Osama Bin Laden's urgings the tenth anniversary of the attacks in New York and Washington on 11th September passed without major incident.

With hindsight this also showed the degree to which some of the disruptive measures being taken to neutralise the threat from Al Qaeda are working. The drone attacks in Pakistan and more recently in Yemen is one of a number of measures that have reduced their operational tempo on the world-stage. This had led Al Qaeda to change it tactics, calling now for potential recruits to act at home and avoid travelling to terrorist training camps. This tactical switch also widens the target list whilst their calls for Al Qaeda acolytes to 'smash their fun loving society' − targeting discothèques and public houses − brings back the images of the attacks in Bali on nightclubs and restaurants.

For the United Kingdom this all has a more immediate focus. With the start of the Olympic Games now less than 100 days away, several immediate anniversaries are of potential concern. The death of Bin Laden at the hands of Seal Team Six on the 1st of May occurs just two and a half weeks before the Olympic Torch starts its journey towards the opening ceremony. The arrival of the Torch could provide a cause celebre that could still be linked to the death of Bin Laden.

The anniversary of the attacks in London on 7th July 2005 could also provide a focal point for an act of terrorism. It happens to be the 50th day of the Torch's journey and on that day it is visiting Cambridge. An attack on an iconic pillar of the establishment such as Cambridge on the day when seven years earlier 52 people died on the London Underground might prove tempting for a group of Al Qaeda followers or an individual acolyte. The 30th of June anniversary of the failed attack on Glasgow Airport is another potentially interesting date and is when the Torch passes through the middle of Birmingham.

The is no doubt other dates in the course of the journey of the Torch that might equally have some slightly more obscure connection into history. The date of the terrorist incident in Madrid was linked to an anniversary of a major battle many hundreds of years previously.

Clearly trying to anticipate that would be a futile exercise. But that does not reduce the need to be careful about the obvious dates. These are those which are closest to our collective memories often leaving a vivid imprint on the lives of those that remember the associated media coverage. To forget those and not be prepared would be hard to defend and be a form of collective dereliction of duty towards the public.

Anniversaries might well be the time for joyful celebration. They are also a time where a brief window of opportunity opens up for those whose celebrations would have a far more sinister objective.


Posted April 23rd, 2012 at 1125 by Andrew. Comment by emailing: