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Expert Comment: Radicalisation and the Woolwich attack

Crime Scene Thursday 30 May 2013

Anno Bunnik, Coordinator of the  Centre for Applied Research in Security Innovation [CASI] at Liverpool Hope, examines the  aftermath of the Woolwich attack. 

Last week’s brutal murder of a British serviceman in Woolwich shocked the country. The video statement by one of the murderers right after committing the deadly act gives plenty of information that this was a ‘terrorist attack’. David Cameron was right in framing it as such. Not only did the perpetrators target elements of the state (by killing a soldier and trying to attack the police officers that entered the crime scene), one of them even explained to passers-by that Britain’s military presence in “our countries” caused them to commit this act of revenge.

There are two dangerous ramifications pertaining from this attack. Firstly, it is another reminder that ‘lone wolf terrorism’ is very difficult to stop. Indeed, these kinds of attacks are less deadly than major operations such as 9/11 and 7/7, but they are also extremely hard for intelligence agencies to monitor. When two men decide to commit such an act of violence they will most probably not talk to a supporting network of likeminded radicals nor do they require much planning to carry out their violence. It will therefore be likely that we will continue to see radical individuals attacking politicians, servicemen or other symbols of the state.

Another hazardous consequence is the giddy response by the far-right English Defense League. These former hooligans turned political activists immediately sought to exploit the tragic death of a serviceman for their own radical agenda. The EDL, and likeminded organisations across Europe, are increasingly polarising the debate and have found themselves in a sickening symbiosis with radical Islamists.

For politicians, as well as us academics, there is a lot of work to do to unravel this precarious political climate and work together to maintain the social cohesion of our society. To achieve this we need to reach out to civil society and the public at large to make sure radical ideologies have no place in our modern world.

Image: Crime Scene. Photo by Alan Cleaver. http://www.flickr.com/photos/alancleaver/4121423119/ Licensed under CC BY-ND

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