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Terrorism News

A collection of open-source terrorism news from around the world.
Date: Feb 5, 2019

Perpetrators do not want to appear too extreme or incompetent

TWO TERRORIST attacks hit the southern Philippines in the final days of January. The first, a double bombing at a Roman Catholic church on January 27th, killed at least 20 people. A fews days later, an attack on a mosque claimed the lives of two Muslim religious leaders. Islamic State quickly claimed responsibility for the first attack, but the perpetrators of the latter remain unknown.

These recent attacks are representative of a broader trend. In the past two decades, fewer than half of all terrorist attacks have been either claimed by their perpetrators or convincingly attributed by governments to specific terrorist groups. A forthcoming paper by Erin Kearns of the University of Alabama, covering 102,914 attacks committed in 160 countries between 1998 and 2016, reveals a consistent pattern to these claims and attributions. Her study shows that attacks causing few deaths, like the assault on the Philippine mosque, tend to remain anonymous. But very deadly ones, such as the attack on a Nepalese military base killing at least 170 soldiers in 2002, are also less likely than average to be claimed or attributed—particularly when aimed at a military or diplomatic target. Instead, it is those in the middle, causing around 100 deaths, whose perpetrators are most often identified.

Terrorist groups have little incentive to claim minor acts of violence. Their opponents could consider such attacks a failure, executed by an incompetent group. At the other, terrorists who inflict the most carnage might fear a backlash from the government or the local population. While killing just a few may be considered tolerable, extremely savage attacks might threaten the group’s survival.

This relationship also holds for attributions by governments. In the absence of fatalities, the state faces less pressure to invest resources into an investigation. After brutal attacks, a government has greater incentives to find those responsible—but only up to a point. Very large-scale attacks are rare, and almost always occur in countries that are poor and authoritarian. Governments in these countries are often less able to investigate attacks, or have no desire to identify the perpetrators.

Read more: Economist

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday that reports suggest there has been "a surge in the use of mercenaries," who are not only fighting in wars and illegally exploiting natural resources but are now "feeding off" transnational organized crime, terrorism and violent extremism.

The U.N. chief called for much broader support for regional and international conventions against the use of mercenaries and said those compacts need to be updated. He also called for prosecuting mercenaries and for strengthening efforts at preventing people, especially the young, from being recruited as mercenaries.

Guterres told the Security Council that while "the shadowy nature" of mercenaries makes data hard to come by, their impact is clear in the worsening of conflicts, weakened stability of countries, the undermining of the rule of law and the large numbers of people forced to flee their homes.

Read more: Minneapolis Star-Tribune

The teen charged with terrorism-related offences briefly appeared via video in a Kingston, Ont., court on Monday.

The youth was charged for “knowingly facilitating a terrorist activity,” and “counselling a person to deliver, place, discharge or detonate an explosive or other lethal device” in a public place.

This came after RCMP raided two homes in Kingston on Jan. 24, arresting the youth, who cannot be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, and another 20-year-old man who was released without charges the next day.

Read more: Global News (Canada)

Burkina Faso’s armed forces have killed 146 jihadists in three counterterror operations in the northwest near the border with Mali, the army’s commander general said.

The army’s response came after armed men attacked Kain village in Yatenga province early Monday, killing 14 people, Gen. Moise Minoungou said on national television Monday night. The army response, including air support, included fighting in Bahn in the north region and Bomboro in the Boucle du Mouhoun region.

The statement said there were light injuries and no deaths among security forces.  Islamic extremists in recent months have increased attacks in Burkina Faso’s volatile Sahel region. A Canadian man was recently kidnapped and killed, and another Canadian and Italian are missing.

Read more: Global News (Canada)

The U.S. Embassy in Kenya warned its citizens of a possible attack in Kenya targeting westerners, three weeks after a raid by an al-Qaeda-linked militant group in the capital, Nairobi, left at least 21 people dead.

“Credible information indicates Westerners may be targeted by extremists in Nairobi, Naivasha, Nanyuki and coastal areas,” the embassy said on Twitter. “The U.S. Embassy reminds the public of the continued need for heightened vigilance throughout Kenya, especially in public spaces such as shopping malls, hotels, and places of worship.”

Read more: Bloomberg