The UK in Terrorists' Crosshair: How Will London React to Recent Attack?

23.03.2017

The terrorist attack in London is very symbolic for Islamist terrorist groups because it took place in a strategically important place, in front of the Houses of Parliament. The area attacked was under a considerable security presence, and even now one can observe on social networks the rhetoric of supporters of radical Islam, who say that the terrorists were able to attack the very heart of Britain.

Although Scotland Yard has already confirmed that Islamist terrorism is the most likely culprit, no terrorist group has yet taken responsibility for the attack. Because of that, it is difficult to determine whether the act was one of a coordinated group or a lone wolf terrorist.

There are several important things of note. First, the modus operandi of the attack: the use of an automobile and a long knife. Both are trademark methods of ISIS, previously used in Nice and Berlin. ISIS has recommended this methodology to its supporters in the US and Western Europe, and it is this method that was seen in action yesterday.

The second thing is that the attack took place on March 22, one year after the attacks in Brussels, which killed 32 and injured 320.

For now it is difficult to determine whether this is a strategy or a coincidence. Both ISIS and al-Qaeda like to use anniversary dates, so it is possible that there is a connection. It should be noted that in propaganda content issued by ISIS in March-April 2016, ISIS said “We attacked Brussels, the next attack will be in Rome or London.” The video released in April 2016 suggests London and has an image of the UK parliament. For now, this is all that we can say about a possible connection.

The third thing is the police raids that took place last night in Birmingham. The police confirmed that it detained seven suspects. There is no information about who these people are, but it should be noted that Birmingham is the city where terrorists who attacked Paris in November 2015 and Brussels in March 2016 travelled to in 2015.

Britain May Introduce Trump-Style Travel Restrictions After Attack Mary Dejevsky
It is too early to know more details about what appears to have been an attempted attack on the Houses of Parliament in London, but the date – the first anniversary of the attacks in Brussels – may be significant, writes Valdai Club expert Mary Dejevsky.

This also brings us back to Mohamed Abrini, who decided at the last moment to not blow himself up at the Brussels Airport on March 22. In July 2015, he went to Birmingham and talked to ISIS operatives. It is known that Abdelhamid Abaaoud is one of the chief organizers of the Paris attacks of November 2015. Shortly before the Paris attacks, he went to Birmingham for a few days. On his mobile phone investigators found many incoming and outgoing calls to Britain and several photographs of strategic British sites.

This information is not enough to confirm that today’s raids in Birmingham are connected to any local ISIS cell or that the London attack is related to the terrorist network which organized attacks in Paris and Brussels. But we cannot deny probability of such connection either.

Until recently, ISIL has not been able to perpetrate a terrorist attack in the United Kingdom. However, since 2014, the terrorist group’s propaganda has often mentioned Britain as a possible target.

It is also known that members of Al-Shabaab, a Somali Islamist group, are present in the United Kingdom, where a lot of immigrants from Somalia reside. This group is rather related to al-Qaeda than ISIL and is not known for activities outside Somalia, but the possibility of its involvement should not be ruled out.

In addition, old cells of Britain’s radical Islamists can be involved in the attack, for example, those related to radical Muslim preacher Anjem Choudary and the Sharia4UK group.

It is hard to predict how British policy will change as a result of the recent developments, but the consequences will be significant.

The attack took place a day after the United Kingdom joined the ban on carrying large electronic devices in cabin on flights from selected countries, recently introduced by the United States due to the growing terrorist threat.

London did not comment on reasons for this decision, but, according to open-source information, British security services are seriously concerned about the growing terrorist threat emanating from supporters of ISIL and Al-Qaida. If the Islamist trail in this incident is confirmed, it will be the largest-scale terrorist attack on the British soil in the past ten years.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

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