Ahead of the forthcoming FIRE Congress on Terrorism, Dr Dave Sloggett looks at one aspect of the emerging strategy of extremists - targeting tourism.
The terrorist attack on Westminster Bridge has claimed another life. The death toll is now five. The Romanian lady, Andreea Cristea (31) who fell off the bridge during the assault succumbed to her injuries. Given she had been in the water for so long it was inevitable she would be unable to recover.
News days later that a group of four people had been arrested in Italy and accused of planning an attack on the iconic Rialto Bridge in Venice shows that so-called Islamic State (IS) are focusing on attacks on tourist sites as one part of their wider strategy.
Over the last two years a pattern of attacks against iconic tourist locations is clear. In Tunisia, the attack against the Bardo Museum that was swiftly followed up by the death of thirty British tourists on a beach as a single lone-gunmen went on a killing spree were notable events. Since then, in Turkey, a number of tourist locations have been targeted, several with large numbers of casualties. In Paris, a lone wolf attempted to attack the iconic Louvre before being shot. In Nice and Berlin, people on holiday were also targeted by the drivers of the two lorries that left a wave of carnage in their wake as they drove through crowds, intent on killing.
This focus on tourist spots can only have implications for the assessment of potential targets in the United Kingdom. Instead of the inevitable focus on London, which many believe to be the sole location where terrorists would strike, it is important that those involved in the emergency services also think about potential targets in their areas.
Any major event that might see multi-national audiences assemble could come into the cross-hairs of IS. It increases their reach. Sadly, whenever the number of casualties is counted there are always many who are forgotten. They are the silent victims. The ones that have lost their loved ones. For them the grieving process can be like a life sentence.
The wider range of multi-nationals that are killed the more silent victims are created across the world. Spare a thought for the boyfriend of Andreea Cristea. He had arranged for her to visit London to propose marriage. Had he not done that she would be alive today. It is difficult for any of us to imagine what he is going through at the moment. Given that hurt it is incumbent on us all to take time to plan and prepare for an attack in our areas. To not take the threat seriously is to place people in harm’s way and also to create future silent victims.
As the date and time for the FIRE Congress on terrorism in Birmingham approaches it is important for all those in the emergency services to reflect carefully on the nature of the wicked and complex world in which we live. Those who have a mindset that it will not happen in their back yard should weigh such a view carefully. While terrorists do have limitations. They are not supermen. They are prone to make mistakes and lone wolfs cannot achieve what a well organised group of attackers can achieve, such as in Paris. But in a single devastating act, such as that of a lone gunman in Orlando, a string of immediate and silent victims can be created.
The notion of Martini Terrorism that can occur at any time, any place and in many forms (involving the knife, the gun, the bomb and in extreme the improvised chemical weapon) is not dead. It could be coming to a place near you at any time. Being resilient when such an attack occurs is crucial. Public enquiries can be unforgiving places for the complacent.
As terrorists seek to extend the range of people who become the silent victims so the emergency services must ensure they are prepared both mentally and with equipment to respond to an event that can literally occur out of the blue. Those attending the Fire Congress will not only be exposed to the detail of how the Islamic State are planning to maintain their presence on the international security stage despite the obvious setbacks that have occurred in their plan to create a physical Caliphate in Iraq and Syria. As that dream fades so an even worse nightmare emerges. It is one for which we must all be prepared.
The FIRE Congress on Facing the Evolving Terrorist Threat will be held on the 18th May at the West Midlands Fire Service Headquarters in Birmingham.
The theme of the Congress training conference is: Improving Multi-Agency Resilience in the Face of an Evolving Threat.
For more information and to book your ticket click here: