Terrorism Gets a New Look
The last time the subject of terrorism was featured on the cover of this journal, a familiar image was used—that of masked killers toting guns against a backdrop of a powerful explosion. Nowadays, however, the picture is different.
IN THE light of dusk, a convoy of plain trucks moves quietly through the subdivisions. The trucks stop near a school building. Soon, a specially trained team of men in gas masks and chemical-protection suits trudge through the leafy shrubs. The only thing they know is that a small explosive device was detonated at a sports event in the school stadium, spreading fumes that sickened scores of spectators. In cooperation with local emergency personnel, the four men cautiously enter the contaminated area to find out what happened. What did the device unleash? Anthrax? Nerve gas?
The men walk slowly toward the arena, bringing with them an assortment of equipment for chemical analysis. They reach a small room where they find the remains of the explosive device. Their mission is delicate, requiring the handling of tiny detection kits and the moving of heavy objects.
Soon their masks steam up. The effort is taxing, even for trained men. In less than ten minutes, though, the residue is identified. “Positive hit on anthrax,” affirms the chemist accompanying them.
The Changing Face of Terror
This event was not as dangerous as it sounds. It was a drill, testing the team’s response to a simulated gas attack somewhere in upstate New York. The group is one of the recently formed Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Teams. Such teams are assigned to assess the scope and severity of a new breed of terrorist attacks by analyzing suspected germs, chemicals, or radioactive material.
This team is one of many worldwide that have been formed in response to the changing threats and challenges posed by terrorism.* Incidents in recent years suggest that acts of terror committed by independent groups or lone extremists are increasing. Although many terrorists still target military installations and diplomatic missions, some have expanded their list to include attacks on so-called soft targets, such as mass transportation systems, sporting events, busy urban locations, hotels, and tourist sites.
Confirming a shift in the behavior of terrorists, Porter Goss, chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, observed: “We’re having to graduate from our old thinking about state-sponsored terrorism to terrorism’s new look. We’re facing increasingly cause-sponsored terrorism.”
Terrorism’s emerging new look embraces actions and strategies that may be harder to prevent or combat. More and more, terrorists are able to utilize new technologies and secure independent financing. Reports USA Today: “New computer and communications technology and links with organized crime make terrorism even more difficult to combat.” The new look also involves new targets, forcing reporters and news analysts to coin such expressions as “cyberterrorism,” “bioterrorism,” and “ecoterrorism.”
How threatening is the new face of terrorism? Is your personal security threatened? Is there a solution to the plague of international terrorism? The following articles will shed some light on these questions.
Views on what constitutes terrorism vary widely. For example, in countries torn apart by civil strife, acts of violence by one faction against another may be viewed either as legitimate acts of war or as terrorism, depending on which side is asked. In this series of articles, the word “terrorism” generally has reference to the use of violence as a means of coercion.
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A Decade of TERRORISM
1. Buenos Aires, Argentina
March 17, 1992
A car bomb demolishes the Israeli Embassy. Killed: 29. Injured: 242
2. Algiers, Algeria
August 26, 1992
A bomb explodes in the international airport. Killed: 12. Injured: at least 128
3. New York City, United States
February 26, 1993
Religious extremists explode a massive bomb below the World Trade Center. Killed: 6. Injured: some 1,000
4. Matsumoto, Japan
June 27, 1994
Members of the Aum Shinrikyo group spray sarin gas in a residential neighborhood. Killed: 7. Injured: 270
5. Tokyo, Japan
March 20, 1995
Aum Shinrikyo members carry six packages onto Tokyo subway trains, releasing deadly sarin gas. Killed: 12. Injured: more than 5,000
6. Oklahoma City, United States
April 19, 1995
A truck bomb explodes at a federal building. Right-wing extremists are blamed. Killed: 168. Injured: more than 500
7. Colombo, Sri Lanka
January 31, 1996
Ethnic terrorists ram a truck laden with explosives into a bank. Killed: 90. Injured: more than 1,400
8. London, England
February 9, 1996
Irish terrorists detonate a bomb in a parking garage. Killed: 2. Injured: more than 100
9. Jerusalem, Israel
February 25, 1996
A suicide bomber blows up a bus. Religious extremists are suspected. Killed: 26. Injured: some 80 others
10. Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
June 25, 1996
A fuel truck carrying a bomb explodes outside a U.S. military housing facility. Killed: 19. Injured: 515
11. Phnom Penh, Cambodia
March 30, 1997
Assailants throw four grenades into a demonstration. Killed: up to 16. Injured: more than 100
12. Coimbatore, India
February 14, 1998
A series of bombings are carried out by religious militants. Killed: 43. Injured: 200
13. Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
August 7, 1998
The U.S. Embassies are bombed. Killed: 250. Injured: over 5,500
October 18 and November 3, 1998
One attack with bombs and another with missiles. An oil pipeline is the target of the first attack. Killed: 209. Injured: more than 130
15. Moscow, Russia
September 9 and 13, 1999
Two huge explosions rip through two apartment buildings. Killed: 212. Injured: more than 300
Source: The Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, Israel
Mountain High Maps® Copyright © 1997 Digital Wisdom, Inc.
Victor Grubicy/Sipa Press
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March 1999: Reports show that Pentagon computers have been under a “coordinated, organized” barrage from intruders. Every day 60 to 80 attacks from hackers are recorded on the computer systems of the U.S. Defense Department.
Mid-1999: Within a three-month period, antigovernment hackers gain illegal entry to Web pages maintained by the U.S. Senate, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Army, the White House, and several cabinet departments in the United States.
January 2000: Worldwide, businesses are reported to have spent $12.1 billion during the previous year fighting “economic terrorism” in the form of harmful computer viruses.
August 2000: A hacker penetrates government-agency and local-authority Web sites in the United Kingdom.