FEATURE ARTICLE

Sunday, August 18, 2019


FORWADED BY: DR MOSHOOD ADEMOLA FAYEMIWO

HOW CAN THE EVIL OF TERRORISM BE ABATED?

adly, terrorism has almost become a quotidian evil around the world in the past decade. And, while that’s a distressing statement, it’s also an accurate one.

Just look at the events of these past couple of years. After a homemade bomb was detonated on May 22, 2017 at Manchester Arena in England, killing 23 people, including the terrorist that set it off and injuring over 500, the terror threat level in the United Kingdom was escalated to “Critical.” Some even compared the situation with France, which had been in a State of Emergency since the Paris attacks in November of 2015. In France, other terrorist’s attacks have taken place between 2018 and 2019. On the 23rd of March 2018, series of terrorist attacks took place in the towns of Carcassone and Trebes of southern France respectively. In Carcassone, a 25 year-old French-Moroccan shot two occupants of a car, killing the passenger and injuring the driver. He went further to open fire on four police officers, inflicting a heavy injury on one officer. The same terrorist, having completed his Carcassone terrorist mission, drove to neighboring Trebes where he shot and killed two civilians and wounding many others in a Super U supermarket. It was later found out that his motive for these senseless attacks was due to the imprisonment of Salah Abdeslam, who was the only surviving suspect of the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks. In another France incident, a 21 year-old Chechnya born French citizen killed one pedestrian while injuring several others using a knife. This attack took place in the area of Rue Saint Augustine and Passage Choiseul. Though he was shot and killed by the police, the fact remains that, innocent lives were lost in that pathetic display of anger and bitterness.

In Nigeria, the terrorist groups, Boko Haram and Fulani Herdsmen have continued to kill people indiscriminately. On February 1st, 2019, Boko Haram killed a minimum of 60 people when it renewed its attack on the northeast town of Rann as reported by Amnesty International. In another incident, Aljazeera reported that Boko Haram fighters have killed people in an attack on Nigeria’s northeast city of Maiduguri. According to the report, the attack took place a couple of hours prior to the announcement of the postponement of presidential election by Nigeria’s electoral commission.

In the same Nigeria, another terrorist group known as Fulani Herdsmen which is considered to be deadlier than Boko Haram have killed thousands of people in their series of calculated attacks. Between January and July of 2018, as many as 1,300 Nigerians were killed in a wave of attacks that swept the country’s central states according to think-tank reports. In June of 2018 alone, a minimum of 86 people were murdered in a week-long attack in Plateau State while in January of the same year, 72 people were brutally killed in New Year’s Day carnage.

In the United States, perhaps the most devastating example of terrorism happened on September 11th, 2001 when Islamist extremists hijacked four planes, two of which were flown directly into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack in the United States; there have been litany of classified terror attacks that have devastated the lives of many Americans. For Rudy Giuliani, who was the mayor of New York during the September 11, 2001, in his New Year’s Eve speech asserted, “The attacks of September 11th were intended to break our spirit, instead we have emerged stronger and more unified.” (Readhead, 2015). Emerging stronger and more unified amid terrorist attack is the first key to minimizing this terrifying problem on the world scene. The refusal to give in to fear considering that terrorism operates on the basis of fear. It was in the light of being courageous in the face of terror that the 32nd President of the United States of America remarked in his inaugural address in 1933, “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror, which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” (Rosenman, 1938). Though President Roosevelt was addressing the people of the United States about the Great Depression, not terrorism, however, the principals are still the same. Again, terrorism operates on fear. If that fear is not persistent, terrorism cannot thrive. And, by saying what he did in his first inauguration, FDR was telling the American people that their fear was making things worse. Again, listen to some of the words he used: “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror, which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” (Rosenman, 1938)

It goes without saying that since 9/11, the American government rather than give in to fear, has taken measures to prevent this type of grand scale attack from happening again, the largest and most obvious being the way airport security is handled. Prior to 9/11, each airport handled their own security, which was outsourced to private security companies. However, since the attacks, Congress passed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, which essentially, federalized airport security. By doing so, they also created the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

The new TSA then implemented their own procedures, which included much stricter guidelines regarding the screening and handling of both passengers and their luggage. No longer can relatives and friends accompany ticketed passengers through security to the boarding gate. Furthermore, when passengers pass through security, they must go through a rigorous procedure that includes removing their shoes and being scanned for weapons or any potentially dangerous items. Also, liquids are not allowed past security, be it a water bottle or shampoo container in a passenger’s carry-on bag. These are just some of the changes. But, this type of structured change will often trump the kind of fear that gives terrorists their strength.

This theory of using fear as a tool dates back to the first century, when the radical group, known as the Sicarii used violence and fear to take control of Judea from its Roman rulers. The Sicarii got hold of Jerusalem and committed a litany of heinous acts in an effort to ignite the people into war against Rome. Armed with small daggers or “sicae,” this group of terrorists and radicals would pull these daggers out and attack both Romans and Hebrew Roman sympathizers alike at public gatherings. After the violence, the Sicarii would blend into the crowd in order to facilitate their escape.

The horrendous actions of the Sicarii were no less frightening than those of today’s terrorist organizations. In one instance, the terror clan raided the neighboring village of Ein Gedi. It was there that the group slaughtered 700 women and children. It goes without saying that the Sicarii took control of the Temple in Judea in 66 AD, using fear as a primary weapon, executing anyone who dare challenge them. Nevertheless, the response and reaction of the general populace should serve as a beacon of hope in the face of the heinous violence perpetrated by terrorists of all ages. The locals during this first century era launched a series of sieges and raids in an attempt to remove these early day radicals. Although the Sicarii eventually put down the uprising, they were weakened by it. And, the populace had stated in one bold voice that they would, indeed, fight back. This facilitated the Romans eventual return to take back control of the city.

A connection can be drawn between the violent behavior of the Sicarii of the 1st century and one of the newest faces of evil in the this 21st century known as Boko Haram. Nigeria as a nation is still dealing with the aftermath of the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls in the wee hours of April 14th, 2014 by this militant organization. They kidnapped the girls right out of their beds at the Government Girls’ Secondary School, a boarding school in Chibok in Borno State, northeast of Nigeria. The gunmen herded the captives into trucks and vanished into the forest long before daylight came. Some of the girls actually managed to escape after a short while by leaping off the lorries and taking cover in the bushes. Though a few of the girls escaped, the terrorist group still made away with 219 girls. Nonetheless, five years have passed; the fate of more than 112 of them is still unknown to this day. “I will never forget about them and I will never stop speaking until they come back," Sa’a, one of the escaped girls told a press conference earlier in 2017 during the painful anniversary in Washington, D.C. (Winsor, 2017).

It has taken years, and even another President and administration that have completed their first term to fight back, though it’s unclear how much fighting President Muhammad Buhari is actually doing. In fact, the fight against Boko Haram has become somewhat of a political agenda. This all begs the question, What ways and strategy can we implore to minimize terrorism around the world? This is a very real question, and one that certainly needs to be addressed considering the clear and present danger that constantly hangs over our society.

For David French, an American attorney, journalist and senior writer at the National Review who is also a conservative with strong moral beliefs and a commitment to following the constitution, “There are two laws of terrorism that work together to guarantee that attacks will occur and they’ll occur with increasing frequency. First, when terrorists are granted safe havens to plan, train, equip and inspire terror attacks, then they will strike, and they’ll keep striking not just until the safe havens are destroyed, but also until the cells and affiliates they’ve established outside their havens are rooted out. Second, when you import immigrants at any real scale from jihadist regions, then you will import the cultural, religious and political views that incubate jihad.” (Friedersdorf, 2017)

It would seem we must both yield certain freedoms and give the authorities more power, in order to protect us to the very best of their abilities. The question becomes, at what cost? Would this mean forbidding mass gatherings and setting curfews? If this would be the case, certainly there would have to be an increase in surveillance. A case in point is the Manchester incident. Following the attacks on Manchester, Britain has increased the presence of armed British troops in hopes of reducing any future attacks. What about Nigeria, where Boko Haram has actively existed since 2002, terrorizing the nation since 2009? The past ten years have been a true reign of terror, with too many kidnappings, forcing children into their service and young women into marriage.

Besides the 276 girls that were kidnapped by Boko Haram in an all-girls secondary school in Chibok, on February 19th, Boko Haram continues its atrocious ways. On that day, an estimated 110 schoolgirls were kidnapped from the Government Technical Girls College in Dapchi, located in the Yobe state, Nigeria. At the time, President Buhari assured parents and citizens that these girls would return safely and the guilty would be punished, yet none of this has occurred till today. How will these empty promises strike equal fear into the hearts of Boko Haram? Will these schoolgirls suffer the same fate as the more than 100 Chibok schoolgirls who are still counted among the missing? Will they be doomed to a frightening existence in limbo?

In fact, while some people consider Boko Haram second only to Fulani Herdsmen and ISIS as a terror threat, many think the former presents an even more dangerous hazard to the world scene in the years to come taking into cognizance their partnership with ISIS. Much like ISIS, Boko Haram has gone from one-off asymmetric attacks to complex military operations. The organization now controls large portions in northeast Nigeria that by some quotation is larger than the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg combined. “Forget about ISIS for just one moment: The deadliest terror group in the world now might be Boko Haram,” said Jason Silverstein in an article in the New York Daily News in 2015. “ A report released Wednesday by the Institute of Economics & Peace said the African Islamic group slaughtered more people last year than any terror group in the world – even ISIS which Boko Haram has pledged to follow.” (Silverstein, 2015)

Evidently, with Boko Haram becoming such a dangerous threat, how Nigeria handles this militant organization will be of considerable interest to the world landscape. The Boko Haram insurgency has persisted due to some challenges with which Nigeria as a nation is faced. These challenges range from poor recruitment/training of military, police and security personnel; inadequate logistics and absence of a clearly defined counterterrorism policy. Other challenges include but not limited to the corruption in governance and national poverty. These challenges work against the ability of the government to stop the activities of the Boko Haram group. There is a need to address these challenges directly in order to mitigate the persistence of the Boko Haram insurgency.

Perhaps the root of Boko Haram’s successful terror campaign could be the product of failed leadership. “The most immediate source of disconnect between Nigeria’s wealth and its poverty is the failure of governance at the Federal, State and Local Government levels,” then United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during her August 2009 visit to Nigeria. “… Lack of transparency and accountability had eroded the legitimacy of the government and contributed to the rise of groups that embrace violence and reject the authority of the state. (Clinton, 2009)

Based on Clinton’s assertion, it could be said that there is a link between Boko Haram’s violent activities and corrupt leadership in Nigeria. To that end, the country must find great and sustainable leadership, which will make one of its objectives the determination to reduce poverty. This will not only reduce, but possibly eradicate the problem of insecurity in the nation.

Additionally, there is a need to come up with an effective counterterrorism strategy. Part of that strategy includes a well-established standard for recruitment to ensure a greater likelihood of bringing suitable and qualified people for the job. Education within this context compromises advancing the capability of a people through an exposure to new knowledge, technology and practice. Policy is therefore an essential element in the enhancement of both internal (security from within the locality) and external security (security from outside the border). There also needs to be more job creation by leadership considering that there is a popular belief in Nigeria that the educated young people who sacrificed their diploma on the altar of loyalty to the Boko Haram group may have done so out of aggravation for not being able to gain employment many years following graduation.

Furthermore, there is also a need for a closer collaboration between security professionals and the civilian personnel. Research has shown that the people who live day to day in the community perceive the impact of Boko Haram’s extremist activities to be greater than their government military counterparts. These are some of the elements that can help abate the efforts of Boko Haram’s terror campaign, effectively minimizing the threat around the world. And, that is something that has to happen on a global scale.

Terrorism will likely always exist, but to what extent? Perhaps if we can minimize this great menace, these heinous acts won’t seem so diurnal. But, to do so, we must first not succumb to fear.

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