‘Carry on as usual,’ urge police and politicians
Should we really refuse to let terror attacks change our ways? This is what freedom-loving Western societies are always told. But now a debate is raging about whether it makes sense.
Nobody died. Thirty people were injured. But it could have been so much worse.
The scalding fireball swept through a London Underground train in a sleepy-sounding station called Parsons Green. The culprit? An ISIS terrorist and his white plastic “bucket bomb”.
Former Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism officer David Videcette, who investigated London’s 7/7 bombings, said the bomb was larger than those used in the 2005 attacks.
He told The Daily Telegraph: “Had it gone off successfully it would have caused a huge loss of life.”
“Whoever built this was not an amateur - it has many of the hallmarks of devices used by terror groups, but the use of the timer to set off the initial part of the device is something we have not seen before in the UK.”
Meanwhile two men have been arrested. And, after briefly being raised to its highest level, the UK terror threat assessment has been returned to “severe” meaning an attack is highly likely rather than expected imminently.
The commentator Jenny McCartney in The Sunday Times said that some take comfort in mocking what they see as the “laughable cack-handedness of home-grown terrorists”.
“But I wouldn’t let the laughter linger too long on perceived stupidity: you really don’t need to be clever to murder someone and murder is always a serious business.”
“Terrorism becomes risible only if it fails utterly in its intent. Yet even if it succeeds only a bit, as in Parsons Green, it can still wreak effects that travel well beyond operational failure. What has come from this botched bomb in a bucket? Worldwide publicity.”
The new normal?
At least one influential voice from a place that has suffered even more from terrorism than London has urged a more aggressive response. Neil Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem, says that after four terrorist attacks in under half a year he now considers London to be more dangerous than his own city. “The phase that Europe’s going through now, we went through 15-20 years ago. We went through this phase of naiveness and wishing that things will pass. Well, they don’t.”
Despite this, the message from the UK’s leaders remains broadly united: keep calm and carry on. Cressida Dick, the leader of London’s famous Metropolitan Police force, said people should go about their business as usual. One national newspaper this weekend said: “The phlegmatic reaction of the country at large is all we can actually contribute to the struggle, but it’s important and we should continue to keep our heads over what is by any reasonable standard a pinprick attack.”
- Have you changed your behaviour in the wake of the recent spate of terror attacks?
- Will the conflict with Islamist terrorism ever be resolved?
- List three small ways you could lessen your chances of being the victim of a terror attack.
- Imagine you are Theresa May’s speechwriter. Write what you think she should say in reaction to the Parsons Green attack.
Some People Say...
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”Franklin D. Roosevelt
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- At around 8:45 a bomb partially went off on a train at Parsons Green station on the London Underground. However, the bomb’s main explosive charge failed to detonate. Nevertheless a fire-ball from the explosion injured thirty, none seriously. Two people have been arrested in connection with the failed attack: an 18-year-old and a 21-year-old. The terror threat was raised to critical soon after the attack, although it has now been downgraded to “severe”, the level operating previously.
- What do we not know?
- The identities of the two men arrested. And we are still unsure why the bomb was faulty. It is believed that it was supposed to detonate further up the line, when the train would have been even more crowded. Nor do we know to what extent the bomber acted alone.
- ISIS terrorist
- The Islamic State extremist group (known as ISIS, ISIL, IS or Daesh) routinely claim responsibility for such attacks. Whether it is directly responsible or rather inspired the attack is not always clear.
- The highest level “critical” means an attack is considered imminent. The three levels below “severe” are “low”, “moderate” and “substantial”. The terror threat level is determined by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, a government body.
- Four terrorist attacks in under half a year
- In London this year the Parsons Green incident follows the attack on the Houses of Parliament in March and the London Bridge and Borough Market attack in June, which can be regarded as ISIS inspired; the fourth was the attack on the Finsbury Park Mosque in June. The UK has also seen the bombing of the Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena in May, for which ISIS claimed responsibility.