Tue | Sep 26, 2017

Editorial | A new approach to terror

Published:Wednesday | May 24, 2017 | 5:00 AM

Like Theresa May, the British prime minister, we, too, are horrified and sickened by Monday night's terrorist attack at a concert venue in the city of Manchester that left at least 22 people dead and scores more injured.

For, as Mrs May said, all acts of terrorism are cowardly, but this one stands out for its deliberate targeting of "innocent, defenceless children and young people who should have been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives", having attended a concert of the American singer and former Nickelodeon television star, Ariana Grande.

The Manchester attack has echoes of the November 2015 assault by adherents of the

so-called Islamic State on Paris' Bataclan music hall, killing 89 people. The Bataclan assault, of course, was part of a series of coordinated attacks in the city that left more than 130 people dead, or around six times as many as killed in Manchester.

But what happened in the UK on Monday is likely, for obvious reasons, to have a greater impact in Jamaica. There are more than 300 years of ties between the two countries, and tens of thousands of Jamaicans, or people of Jamaican descent, live in Britain. Substantial numbers of Jamaicans live in the English West Midlands, including in Manchester.

There is, up to now, no report of Jamaicans being victims of the attack, and we hope it remains that way. But in all likelihood, a Jamaican knows someone, or knows someone who knows someone, who is. That brings this matter of terrorism close to home.

And that brings us to how we plan for terrorist threats in the island and how we might cope should it happen, even as we hope it never does.

The Five-Pillar Strategy on crime, tabled in Parliament last month by National Security Minister Robert Montague, does contemplate the possibility of terrorist attacks, to which the Government is responding "by upgrading and expanding our technological capabilities and revising and refining operational procedures".

These threats are largely viewed in the context of Latin American narco-traffickers seeking to undermine democratic institutions; or, in relation to the religio-ideological ones on large physical infrastructure, particularly foreign-owned hotels, perceived as the more likely targets. The likelihood of such terror attacks has a Tier 2 rating, which is to say a low probability to happen.

 

Threat levels under review

 

The strategy document does, however, note that threat levels remain under review and that Jamaica is working with Caribbean and other partners to determine the imminence of these hazards and how to respond to them. Even as this effort continues with urgency, we hope this newspaper suggests an immediate broadening of the scope of likely targets, and, therefore, how we plan the responses to these threats.

Up to now, our focus has been primarily on targets like hotels, ports and mostly large, visible infrastructure, owned by investors from Western countries that have been the primary targets of the new religio-ideological terrorists. But as the Bataclan and now the Manchester attacks show, the terrorists are increasingly asymmetrical in their strategy. Anywhere people congregate is in their sights. Further, we increasingly doubt that their ideological irrationality marks countries like our own off their lists.

Yet, large public, vulnerable events are held in Jamaica regularly with little or insufficient attempt being paid to security. It is a matter to be addressed by Minister Montague in his planned broader review of security arrangements, such as how to ensure the functionality of the Government in the event of a crisis.