Condemning terror: ‘What has happened to humanity?’ (First of two parts)
I WAS wrong when I thought that the world’s strongest condemnation of terror will put an end to terrorist acts.
When the most brutal and destructive terrorist attack destroyed the twin towers in New York and claimed thousands of American lives, America, I thought, will not take it sitting down. That a more vicious annihilation of terrorists is in the offing.
The whole world was on the side of the United States, and for all of America’s faults and shortcomings, she couldn’t go wrong if she decided to retaliate. World leaders, nations, and institutions strongly condemned the act that had exposed Americas’ vulnerability and seeming weakness.
For years, US authorities hunted down Osama Bin Laden. The end of the most hated terrorist was imminent. In one fell swoop, Bin Laden was cornered in a compound at Abbottabad, Pakistan just yards from a military compound and mercilessly killed by US Navy Seals.
Bin Laden’s end happened on May 2, 2011, but the end of terror is from over. Terror attacks from all over the world continued.
During the annual Boston Marathon on Apr. 15, 2013, two homemade pressure cooker bombs detonated 12 seconds and 210 yards (190 m) apart, killing three people and injuring several hundred others, including 16 who lost limbs. During questioning, one of the suspects said he and his brother were motivated by extremist Islamist beliefs and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, that they were self-radicalized and unconnected to any outside terrorist groups.
In 2015, married couple Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik shot and killed 14 people and injured 22 others in a killing spree that the FBI was investigating as an”act of terrorism”. This was called the San Bernardino attack.
On the morning of March22, 2016, three coordinated suicide bombings occurred in Belgium: two at Brussels Airport in Zaventem, and one at Maalbeek metro station in central Brussels. Thirty-two civilians and three perpetrators were killed, and more than 300 people were injured. Another bomb was found during a search of the airport. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) claimed responsibility for the attacks.
On Palm Sunday, Apr. 9, 2017, twin suicide bombings took place at St. George’s Church in the northern Egyptian city of Tanta on the Nile delta, and Saint Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, the principal church in Alexandria, seat of the Coptic papacy. At least 45 people were reported killed and 126 injured. Amaq News Agency said the attacks were carried out by a security detachment of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
On the afternoon of Aug. 17, 2017, 22-year old Younes Abouyaaqoub drove a van into pedestrians on La Rambla in Barcelona, Spain, killing 13 people and injuring at least 130 others, one of whom died 10 days later on Aug. 27. Nine hours after the Barcelona attack, five men thought to be members of the same terrorist cell drove into pedestrians in nearby Cambrils, killing one woman and injuring six others. The night before the Barcelona attack, an explosion occurred in a house in the Spanish town of Alcanar, destroying the building and killing two members of the terrorist cell, including the 40-year old imam thought to be the mastermind. The group accidentally detonated the bomb they were making.
The long arm of terror did not spare the Philippines. On May 23, 2017, the Battle of Marawi also known as the Marawi siege commenced. It became the longest urban battle in the modern history of the country lasting five months. Government security forces battled Muslim militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) including the Maute and Abu Sayyaf Salafi jihadist groups. The war devastated the city, razing it to ground zero with properties, houses, churches and mosques destroyed at epic proportions.
Then came the bombing of a Catholic Church in Mindanao. On the morning of Jan. 27, 2019, two bombs exploded at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo, Sulu. Twenty people were killed and 102 others injured. It is believed that the attacks were carried out by the Abu Sayyaf, and the Islamic State claimed responsibility. President Rodrigo Duterte responded by issuing an “all-out war” directive against the Abu Sayyaf. The bombings have been widely condemned, with local groups and other countries issuing statements about the attacks.
As in the past, the spiteful condemnation of terrorists and their activities only embolden them to inflict more terror upon hapless and unsuspecting individuals.
War critics often argued, before Bin Laden’s death, that getting Bin Laden would weaken terrorism. Yet after Bin Laden’s death, we have seen the rise of ISIS (earlier known as al Qaeda in Iraq). Bin Laden was a dangerous man but it is the movement that is deadlier. Focusing on one individual is not the way to win a war. Just as killing Admiral Yamamoto, famous for the Pearl Harbor attacks, in a daring raid in 1943 did not end World War II, killing Bin Laden did not end the war on terror.
Today’s al Qaeda merely offers a diminished threat and Bin Laden’s killing certainly contributed to it. But the emergence of the Islamic State has in many ways filled the terrorist void. With thousands of Western nationals in its ranks, Filipinos included, homegrown terrorism around the world now poses an even bigger and more immediate threat to our safety and security.