Saturday, 8 March 2014

The Audacity of ‘Lone Wolf’ Terrorism

The gruesome daylight murder of a 25-year-old off-duty British Army Drummer- Lee Rigby, in Woolwich, Southeast London after the Boston Marathon bombings in the United States of America, has once again brought to the fore, the growing threat of ‘Lone Wolf’ Terrorism, a new terror impetus towards unsophisticated and uncoordinated attacks that are virtually impossible to thwart. A cardinal analogy between the London and the Boston incidents is the prospect that the suspected masterminds became radicalized and may have inculcated their proficiency from extremist publications on the Internet. The potency of terrorism generally is that it alters the psyche of a society and instills fear in the minds of people.

The Shifting Face of Terrorism
Some analysts have described the London attack as a form of "open-source jihad". Recent incidents lend credence to the assertion that 'lone wolf' attacks seems to be the new corridor to terror. Lone Wolf terrorism narrows the ease with which terrorists slip between the seams of a country’s security, military/defence establishment.

To refresh our minds, terrorism refers to ‘premeditated acts that are committed with the intent to seriously intimidate a population, or unduly coerce a Government or international organization to perform or refrain from performing any act, or seriously destabilizing or destroying the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country or an organization’ (Council of the European Union, 2002). 

According to Dr. Boaz Ganor, a counterterrorism expert at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel, terrorist attacks can be divided into two types: “personal initiative” attacks, and “organized terrorism”.

A lone wolf is an individual or small group of individuals who use regular terrorist tactics – including violence and the targeting of civilians -- towards the realization of overtly political or ideological goals, but who act devoid of membership or cooperation with an official or unofficial terrorist organization, cell or group. Lone wolf terrorists are tricky to spot and cannot be easily sniffed out by Security agencies.  Lone-wolf terrorists may identify or empathize with extremist movements, but they do not form part of these movements. The boundaries of lone-wolf terrorism are often foggy juxtaposed with crimes carried out strictly for personal reasons (cf. Hewitt, 2005).

Sequel to the waning of Al Qaeda's leadership cum network by more than a decade of protracted war with the U.S. and its allies, analysts believe that ‘lone wolf’ terrorism will pose an enormous threat to World Peace. The audacious reassertion of irredentist, racial and religious identities is sequel to the fact that the capability to propagate violence is increasingly trickling down from State actors to Non-state actors and even to ‘Lone wolves’ or freelancers. Because of this escalating flux in the application of raw power, smaller groups and in many cases freelancers are upping the ante in the deployment of terror and acts of subversion.

There are significant and profitable insights to be gleaned from understanding the phenomenon and modus operandi ‘Lone Wolf’ terrorism.

American Lone Wolf Phenomenon

Some analysts argue that lone wolf terror is particularly likely in the American setting due to the American cultural stress on individualism.  Thus, an American might be less likely to seek out a group to assist him in carrying out an ideological or political agenda.  In the last twenty years, most of the major terrorist attacks in the United States (with the exception of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center) have been the handiwork of lone wolves.  American lone wolves include  such infamous goons as Timothy McVeigh, who killed one hundred and sixty eight civilians in an bombing at the Oklahoma City Federal Building on 1995; Theodore Kaczynski, the man branded as the Unabomber, who killed three people through a targeted campaign of sending letter bombs to those engaged in scientific research between the years 1978 and 1995; and John Allen Muhammad, the man known as the Washington sniper for his onslaughts on civilians in the Washington, DC area in the fall and winter of 2002.

Psychological and Ideological underpinning of Lone Wolf Terrorism
The foremost ideological underpinning of Lone Wolf Terrorism inter alia include: radical religion fundamentalism, ethnic jingoism/irredentism, hopelessness, frustration etc.

Dr Ganor cites that the motives of a ‘lone wolf’ terrorist may be personal-psychological, allied with the motives of a local group, or derived from global political motives. The psychologically-driven lone wolf may be responding to an internal imperative born of a past unpleasant incident.

It has long been argued that terrorists should not be regarded as ‘mad’ or suffering from any identifiable psychopathology (Post, 1998; Horgan, 2005). There is no systematic evidence to support the view of terrorists being psychologically dissimilar from non-terrorists. Crenshaw (1981: 390) has noted that ‘the outstanding common characteristic of terrorists is their normality.

For example in the case of Yigal Amir, the young man that killed Yitzhak Rabin, the then Israeli Prime Minister, a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation revealed that Yigal Amir was neither mentally ill nor emotionally disturbed. Amir painstakingly planned the assassination over several months and calmly carried out the crime (The New Tork Times, 27 March 1996).

Religion fundamentalism and radicalization
In addition to asking ‘why’ individuals commit terrorist offences, we should also ask ‘how’ they come to engage in terrorism. The second question stresses the trajectory of lone-wolf terrorism and urges a search for latent developments that contribute to the onset of the individual’s terrorist ‘career’. In the context of terrorism, radicalization can be defined as a person’s growing keenness to pursue (or to support or spur on others to pursue) profound societal changes through violence or the threat of violence (cf. AIVD, 2004b: 13-14; COT, 2006: 5). Radicalization can result in an activist attitude involving the public expression of one’s beliefs and a vigorous search for verbal and physical altercation with ‘adversaries’.

Weapons of Choice for Lone Wolf Terrorists
Firearms are the foremost weapon of choice to lone-wolf terrorists, followed by explosives and armed hijackings. There exist significant cross-national variations in the weaponry of lone-wolf terrorists. The use of firearms is considerably more common in the United States than in other countries which may be partly due to the relative accessibility of firearms in the United States. Only one lone wolf, Muharem Kurbegovic (a.k.a. The Alphabet Bomber), has threatened to use chemical or biological weapons. Kurbegovic threatened to release sarin in populated areas and claimed that he was already conducting experiments with it. (Simon, 2000: 87). Just few days ago, Iraqi Authorities reportedly thwarted an attempt by an Al-Qaeda Cell to manufacture and deploy ‘’chemical weapons/Poison gas’’ to Europe and North America.

The Impact of Lone-Wolf Terrorism
It has been argued that lone terrorists are likely to have comparatively modest impact on society when compared to large terrorist organizations (Stern, 2003:173; Schuster & Stone, 2005:362). The organizational competence and resources of terrorist organizations generally make them more threatening than lone individuals. Although this appears to be true at least for most sustained terrorist campaigns and high-profile coordinated attacks, it is also clear that the lone wolf can strike fear. Scholars have asserted that lone-wolf terrorists ‘can be remarkably dangerous’ and that ‘if such lone terrorists have access to sophisticated technologies, their acts may be extremely destructive’ (Vasilenko, 2005:54). In addition, scholars’ concurr that lone wolf terrorists are more difficult to detect and pose specific challenges for counterterrorism (e.g. Stern, 2003:173; Laqueur, 1999:269). They are ‘hard to identify before they act’ and often ‘hard to track down subsequently’ (Hewitt, 2003:79).

Responses To Terrorism: Counterterrorism Policies
The United States of America: An average American will not mince words in telling you that that the US does not negotiate with terrorists. After the September 11 terrorist attacks, the United States embarked on wide-ranging reforms. They effectively restructured their terrorism/counter-terrorism policy and strategy. It is now biased towards deterrence and taking the battle to the door steps of the enemy, keeping them busy in their own soil.

The leading framework of deterrence policy of the United States is encapsulated in the Patriot Act. The Patriot Act gave new powers for Intelligence-gathering, authority to intercept communications, creation of a ‘’terrorist exclusion list’’. It also specifies assignments to specific agencies- the FEMA has the responsibility of developing an overall federal response plan while Delta Force and Seal Team Six are the ‘muscles’ of the US counterterrorism. Other sister agencies like the DCI counter-terrorist centre, the CIA and the FBI have varied roles.

Lone-wolf terrorism is usually dealt with within subsisting counterterrorism policies. In the United States, however, the events of 9/11 and the consequent ‘War on Terrorism’ also triggered off significant (proposed) changes in the legal provisions for dismantling and forestalling lone-wolf terrorism. The controversial draft version of the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003 (DSEA) (Department of Justice, 2003) contains new law enforcement powers beyond those contained in the USA Patriot Act of 2001. The DSEA would change this definition to include all individuals, regardless of whether they are affiliated with an international terrorist group, who engage in international terrorism (Department of Justice, 2003, §101). This change is believed to enhance the investigation of lone-wolf terrorists and ‘sleeper cells’ who may not have active ties to an established terrorist group.

In 2004, the United States Congress adopted a significant change to FISA with the introduction of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act. The Act amended the definition of ‘agent of a foreign power’ in FISA, 50 U.S.C. §1801(b) (1), to add a ‘lone wolf’ provision. Under this new provision, a non-United States person who engages in international terrorism or activities in preparation for international terrorism is deemed to be an ‘agent of a foreign power’ under FISA. This amendment permits the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to issue a court order authorizing electronic surveillance and physical search orders without having to demonstrate a connection between the target of the electronic surveillance or the physical search and a foreign government or terrorist group (Bazan, 2004; see also Bellia, 2005). The new ‘lone wolf’ provision makes it easier for the government to conduct surveillance of suspected lone-wolf terrorists who either act in sympathy with the aims of an international terrorist group but not on its behalf, or whose link to an international terrorist group cannot be demonstrated.

Israel’s Counterterrorism Policy: Israel ranks high in the ladder of countries with massive experience with counter-terrorism measures. Due to hostility from its Arab neighbors, the State of Israel enacted the ‘Prevention of terrorism Ordinance in way back 1948. Like the United States, Israel has a zero-tolerance Policy in negotiating with terrorists. They demonstrated this in June 1976 when a group of Palestinian and German terrorists abducted an Air France Plane and held its passengers hostage at Entebbe, Uganda.
The United Kingdom: Sequel to the global hegemony that Great Britain once enjoyed, the UK is adept at terrorism issues. Recall the UK battled the Irish Republican Army (IRA) for several years. The United Kingdom redoubled its domestic counterterrorism strategy after the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 by Libyan terrorists in December 1988. In December 2001, the British parliament passed the ‘Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act’ which empowers Security agencies to detain suspected terrorists upwards of 6 months without charges. The United Kingdom also has an alert system that indicates and warns its citizens when a terrorist incident is likely, critical heightened and so on. This effectively sensitizes the citizenry and makes them conscious of goings-on around them and to report suspicious activities/individuals around them.

In the recent incident in London, people in Woolwich took pride in the way they handled the whole episode. Women bravely tried to help the dead soldier. The scene of Cub Scout leader Ingrid Loyau-Kennett talking to the killers in order to prevent them attacking others was inspiring. Nearby schools took reasonable preventive measures to ensure that children were not jeopardize. Mainstream Muslim groups were also swift to denounce the horrific killing.
The grisly murder in Woolwich has prompted calls for Britain's government to look again at a shelved bill that would profoundly expand law enforcement's powers to monitor suspects' use of the internet, which is currently only possible on a more limited basis.

"There is some internet surveillance going on," said Yates who was Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner until he retired in 2011. "It's been made very clear by police chiefs in recent weeks that if you download something like 'Inspire' you will be arrested, it is an offence and you will be charged." Yates believes that in order to prevent future attacks; counter-terrorism police must bolster their community engagement strategy -- making local people feel "free and able to provide relevant information at the right time."
So where to draw the line between free speech and invasion of privacy? The proposal to expand police powers for collecting online data caused hullabaloo among privacy advocates in late 2012, but the government says more vigorous surveillance tools are now needed to effectively combat terrorism.

However radicalization specialist Shiraz Maher is of the opinion that monitoring the internet and tracking down anyone who downloads an al-Awlaki speech or a bomb-making guide won't solve the lone wolf problem. "You don't have to have read 'Inspire' anymore -- everyone knows what's going on because, if nothing else, the media talks about it so much. The idea of committing an unsophisticated attack against a high-profile symbol is out there. It's an impossible thing to work against," he said.

The Nigerian Experience: Urgent Need for a Counter-Terrorism Strategy/Policy
Strategy and Policy are synonymous. A Strategy or a Policy is a template that stipulates an elaborate and systematic plan of action to be adopted by an individual, group/organization or a country in an eventuality whereas a law is a collection of rules imposed by an authority or a country. A law is skewed towards punitory, reacting to a stimulus after the harm has been done. The presence of a Strategy/Policy and a relevant law will mesh and yield a coveted outcome.

If what happened in Boston or Woolish (London) had happened in Nigeria, a Presidential committee will be set up. Another committee will be assembled to study and harmonize the findings of the first committee. Reports of the coterie committees will subsequently join their ancestors in Nigeria’s flourishing ‘’National Archive of Committee and Panel Reports’’ and it is business as usual again, the vicious cycle continues.

Tracking the Leadership of Boko Haram
The knack for releasing their Press Releases through the internet- YouTube et al shows that the leadership of BH under Abubarka Shekau is to say the least, trendy. No matter how IT Savvy they are, they cannot afford not leaving behind ‘online forensic fingerprints/trails’. This is a clue to Nigerian Security establishments and individuals who might be eying the $7m Bounty on Abubakar Shekau by the United States government. Granted the bloke may rely on foot soldiers to release the Press releases and do other legwork for him. He cannot run or hide forever. Compared to Osama, Shekau is a small fry. Osama Bin Laden seemed larger than life and eluded capture for several years until he was sniffed out through a potpourri of massive intelligence network.

Nigeria recently upped the ante with a $40-$60 million ‘internet surveillance’ contract supposedly awarded to an Israel firm- Elbit Systems. The capability of an ‘Open Source Intelligence Software’ or a ‘’Wise Intelligence Technology (WiT) System for Intelligence Analysis’’ to be deployed by this firm is incontestable. The snag however is that there is little the technology will do in stopping a run-of-the-mill ‘Lone Wolf’ or an almajiri who may not be internet savvy or rely on it for communication. 

Nigeria needs to take a cue from some of the advanced countries of the world; we need a much more proactive approach than a knee-jerk approach. Permit me to reiterate that it is high time Nigeria articulated a “Coherent Counterterrorism Policy/Strategy”, a template if you like, that will define our position on terrorism and provide detailed guide on how to respond to such incidents. We cannot contain terrorism by blowing hot and cold. Due to the unpredictable nature of terrorism, our National Security think-tank or agencies must think the unthinkable. Another viable option will be the entrenchment of a massive intelligence network that will help the Security agencies nip goings-on in the bud.

The resilience of Bostonians and lately, Londoners in the wake of the murder of the off-duty British Soldier- Lee Rigby must be commended. Imagine a woman, a mother of two by the name Ingrid Loyau-Kennett courageously walking up to and striking a conversation with a blood-letting terrorist. How many women nay men can do that in Nigeria?

There are news reports that some Nigerian soldiers were arrested for giving information to BH. One will presuppose that the Nigerian Military should be able to ‘filter’ the officers and men to be deployed for such operations. For instance an indigene of say Baga community serving in the Nigerian Army will likely have a divided loyalty if he/she is deployed to quell an insurgency in his own community.

Due to the unconventional (akin to guerrilla warfare) and fluid nature of terrorism, deploying battalions of gung-ho soldiers as Nigeria is apt to do, may yield semblance of result in the short run. The prevailing scenario will definitely whittle the capabilities of the Sect but it will not stop them from re-grouping in another less hostile environment or launching ‘lone wolf’ sporadic attacks. It is not uhuru yet. Aso Rock must not bask on the euphoria of the seeming success of its latest campaign. Nigeria must brace up and have answers to the growing trend of ‘lone wolf’ terrorism. Ombatse and a plethora of other latent insurgency/terrorist groups are still out there.

A lot of people are asking, what next after the State of emergency? With the gung ho military approach and the US bounty on Shekau, how do you convince him and his men to negotiate or accept an amnesty? The so-called “Amnesty Committee’’ has outstayed their welcome and should be disbanded so as not to further waste tax payer’s money.

Inter alia, the insecurity, terrorism and instability challenges bedeviling Nigeria is a butterfly-effect and vestiges of a dysfunctional society grappling with the miasma of the infernal foisting of diverse ethnic nationalities on each other.
At the risk over-egging the pudding or been dubbed a pessimist, permit me to postulate that with or without negotiation/amnesty, with or without a State of Emergency/Joint Task Forces, pockets of sporadic terrorist incidents, kidnappings will persist across Nigeria unless far-reaching measures are taken to shrink abject poverty, rising unemployment, hopelessness, wanton corruption, entrenched culture of impunity, religion fundamentalism and injustice. 

Nigeria needs to urgently address the remote and immediate causes of insecurity, terrorism and instability rather than treating the symptoms of the disease as we are currently doing.

We want lasting peace in Nigeria not a simulated/semblance of peace. We want lasting peace not sustained deferment of the evil day.

Written by:
Don Okereke

This piece was first published on 25/08/2013 on  yahoo! contributor network:

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