The West must wake up

Source: Israel Hayom | The West must wake up

Three incidents in the span of less than 24 hours — the accidental explosion as bombs were being prepared; the coordinated terrorist attack in Barcelona; and, several hours later, the attempted suicide bombing in the resort town of Cambrils — are yet another reminder of how bad the threat of terrorism can be.

Since 2013, when a handful of fighters led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of al-Qaida in Iraq established Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the terrorist organization has prompted mad fantasies of a caliphate and Shariah law among some young people, mainly those who match a very particular profile. Under the guise of self-righteousness, Islamic State operatives proved themselves to be barbarians in the areas they overran, mobilizing Muslims and Muslim sympathizers from Europe who come from the criminal underworld. These are people who have nothing to lose, some of whom came to Middle Eastern battlefields and trained and fought next to their brothers from Islamic State. Some of them went on to commit acts of terrorism in their home countries. Others were simply pointed in this direction in secret chat rooms on the Darknet.

Since 2015, Europe has been facing a growing threat of terrorism, and it has suffered brutal attacks. The wars in Syria and Iraq have sent a stream of immigrants, among them terrorists, to Europe. In light of failures on the battlefield, Islamic State has begun working on the weak underbelly of Western countries through rammings, car bombings and suicide attacks.

The impending fall of Islamic State will only bring more painful terrorist attacks everywhere the group has sympathizers. Attacks like the ones in Spain bring about copycat attacks, and raise the enthusiasm of those ready to accept similar missions. The attacks will be shocking and cruel. There is nothing stopping such murderous rampages, and the trend will become more pronounced as Islamic State suffers defeats on the battlefield and loses territory. Today, there are sleeper cells of operatives and supporters in Europe, Africa, and other continents. They will shock and surprise us. They have collected experience, they are fearless, and they will act vengefully.

All this will continue until operatives are cut off at the source by security agencies and are dealt with in a framework of international cooperation, in the same way that terrorist ideology crosses borders.

Unfortunately, most European countries have yet to wake up to the issue and its solution. I am writing this after an extended stay in several countries, including during the last two weeks. To my chagrin, we do not see security forces where they are needed. Some Europeans still do not believe that such things can happen, and laws have still not been passed to enable the intelligence services to tackle the massive job awaiting them. There is still no security coverage for mass events and in public places, nor is there enough coordination between intelligence and law enforcement agencies — police and other forces. The West must wake up, and the sooner the better.

Yaron Blum is a former senior Shin Bet security service officer.

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