FIRE's Security Correspondent Dr Dave Sloggett reviews the tenth anniversary of 9/11

It is customary for people to observe a minutes silence as an act of remembrance for those who have lost their lives in a major accident, natural disaster or act of terrorism. In New York and across many parts of the world the critical moment when the attack against the United States started ten years ago a moment of silence was held to commemorate those that died in the world's single most catastrophic act of terrorism.

The tenth anniversary of that dreadful day was always going to be a difficult day for those who lost loved ones. Despite the passage of time the grief etched on some people's faces was still raw as they stood in New York remembering the scenes that all of us know so well. The silence spoke volumes.

The respect for the moment of silence was observed by all except a few extremists who gathered outside the United States Embassy in London. Their incoherent rhetoric and behaviour contrasted so dramatically with the dignity of the moment of silence observed by others in the United Kingdom.

It could have all been so different. In the last hours before the act of remembrance in New York a credible terrorist threat emerged from a reliable source in Pakistan. Even though security was already intense it set the New York authorities into another round of increased effort. On the day President Obama and President Bush were both going to attend the act of remembrance in New York. Together they represented a very attractive target. For many this was a very real threat that had to be treated seriously.

A good friend in the New York Fire Department wrote to me earlier on in the week expressing concern about what might happen. His daughter was taking part in the commemoration service. The collective sigh of relief at the end of the services must have been palpable in the police, fire and ambulance service headquarters. The day passed without incident. The act of commemoration had gone like clockwork.

The simple fact is that the silence that commemorated those that died was only outdone by the silence of Al Qaeda. Despite his urgings in the months before he died the day passed with almost no events occurring around the world. The lack of any attack is revealing. But it does not suggest that Al Qaeda is finished. In Afghanistan a suicide bomber caused nearly 80 casualties in a United States military base - of itself nothing out of the ordinary. In Sweden the police arrested four people in Gothenburg who have been charged with plotting acts of terrorism. Recent court cases in the United Kingdom have served to illustrate the enduring nature of the threat we face as America's closest ally. Clearly there are still those who desire to conduct acts of terrorism.

That no major acts of terrorism occurred anywhere in the world provides an insight into the degree to which Al Qaeda is currently unable to transfer its intent into action. The death of Bin Laden and the newly promoted Second-in-Command in recent military operations has clearly had a major impact. The new head of Al Qaeda Dr Ayman Al-Zawahiri is struggling to assert his authority. For Al Qaeda at the moment life is very difficult. But it is too soon to suggest they are finished. They retain a core group of people whose commitment does not appear to have waivered.

It is to be hoped that Al Qaeda struggles to recover from these set-backs and the world can start to move on. It would be a fitting testimony to those that died ten years ago for the anniversary not just to be an act of remembrance but also as a celebration of a new era where a similar devastating act of terrorism can never occur again. Given Al Qaeda's history however it would be a very brave person that would bet on such an outcome. Sadly the silence of Al Qaeda on the tenth anniversary is unlikely to be sustained.

 

Posted September 12th, 2011 at 1005 by Andrew. Comment by emailing: andrew.lynch@pavpub.com