‘’Loon’ wolf terrorist attacks to become the norm’

‘’Loon’ wolf terrorist attacks to become the norm’
Counterterrorism measures make it difficult to dispatch groups to attack the West, so terrorist organizations may stick to the strategy practiced by al-Qaeda, and call upon individual amateurs instead, Middle East expert Max Abrahms told RT.

RT:Just a few months ago Australia conducted massive anti-terror raids. Why did they fail to prevent Monday’s tragedy in Sydney? Could they have been a cause?

Max Abrahms: The reality is, I don’t think the countries can be blamed for not accounting for every single crazy ‘lone wolf’ terrorist, what I’m trying to coin as ‘loon wolf’ terrorist because these people are often deranged by definition, they don’t have a strong connection with other terrorist groups, they are really operating by themselves. It’s very easy to imagine how this one perpetrator could go under the radar, although in this case it does seem like perhaps the authorities should have been more suspicious of him. He has a long history of criminal offenses, including being a sexual predator; he has been an open advocate online for the terrorist group Islamic State. And a number - about 250, I’ve heard – of the jihadists have come from Australia, so the notion that there may be some terrorists hiding within the population isn’t particular shocking.

READ MORE:3 dead, 4 injured after police op in Sydney siege

RT:Looking at the police reaction and the outcome, were the security forces ready for this situation?

MA: I think that it had been handled well. Of course not everything is dictated by the preferences of the authorities. Sometimes the authorities have to storm in depending on what is going on with the hostages. In this case what it seems like is that several of the hostages managed to escape from the café, and this was not an organized release by the hostage-taker but rather these captives fled. Apparently that really upset the hostage-taker who was already a sort of deranged and unstable. Then gunshots were heard and then the authorities stormed in. So I think the authorities on the ground would have preferred to have waited it out because this was a relatively long duration for a hostage crisis. The place was completely surrounded, and what’s more, there was only one assailant. So presumably he would begin to get tired because managing such a complex and dangerous situation is exhausting. I’m sure the authorities wanted to wait it out but they really couldn’t after hearing the gunshots.

RT:What about the Muslim population? After watching all this they might be frightened by a potential backlash. What’s your take on it?

MA: That’s an excellent point. There is a real irony about the terrorism, and that is that people use it in order to improve their political grievances, in order to help out their political cause. That’s the one thing that all terrorist by definition have in common. Yet the paradox of it is that when terrorists use terrorism, the population tends to turn against them and there tends to be a backlash against the very political cause that the perpetrators were advocating for. Presumably this perpetrator, we don’t know this for sure, had some demands on Western governments to improve their treatment of the international Muslim population, the Ummah. And yet, the response within Australia would almost certainly be to turn to the political right and become even more discriminatory towards the Muslims. In that sense the perpetrator’s actions like almost all terrorist attacks are deeply politically counter-productive.

Australian paramedics work on an injured hostage as hostages are carried out of a cafe in the central business district of Sydney on December 16, 2014. (AFP Photo)

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RT:Should the Australian government review its policies in the Middle East? And what kind of reaction can we expect from the Australian population as obviously no one wants such a situation to repeat?

MA: You might think the rational thing to do will be for countries to try to do everything to appease terrorists in order to avoid being attacked again in the future. Yet, in the face of terrorist attacks governments and national publics tend to become even more militarized and even more aggressive. Although I understand rationally you might expect Australia to begin leaving the military coalition against Islamic State, in practice that’s not generally what happens. Although there are few exceptions - remember Spain, the attack in Madrid. Spain was helping out the US with the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, and after the Madrid train bombings Spain did withdraw its forces from Iraq. So there is a precedent both ways but statistically speaking it’s more likely that Australia would dig in its political heels and would go even more offensive against Islamic State.

RT:The flag displayed in the cafe's window is said to be a jihadist battle flag but is not associated with any group specifically. Do you think the attacker was acting alone or he was a part of a bigger group?

MA: I don’t believe that this guy has operational ties to the organization. If he did, I believe that the plan would have been better thought out. Almost everything that this guy did seems to have been improvisational. Apparently he didn’t even have the right flag, and one of his main demands was for somebody to give him the proper IS flag. It wasn’t clear exactly what he wanted. So it seems to be very amateurish. However, I do believe that this kind of attack will become a norm because as counterterrorism makes it increasingly difficult for the organization to dispatch numerous people from conflict zones to attack the West, it’s much easier to call upon the individual amateur person. Al-Qaeda has practiced this strategy and so does the Islamic State.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.