Renew worldwide focus on counterterrorism

Published 7:44 am Thursday, May 25, 2017

Minneapolis Star Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency

Once again, the world mourns the deaths of innocents at the hands of a hate-filled attacker. And once again, we must regroup in the face of tragedy and double down on efforts to prevent such senseless acts.

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Monday’s attack in England was especially heartbreaking because it targeted a crowd of mostly teenage and preteen concertgoers and their families. A shrapnel-filled bomb blasted through an entrance hall of a 20,000-seat arena in Manchester, taking at least 22 lives and injuring 59. Among the dead was an 8-year-old girl. The suicide bomber targeted concertgoers leaving the venue where they had heard American pop star Ariana Grande perform.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria claimed responsibility for the attack in Great Britain’s second-largest city, but that was not confirmed as of late Tuesday. It was the deadliest terror assault in Britain since 2005, when 52 people died, along with four assailants, in coordinated attacks on London’s transit system.

The suicide bomber has been identified as a 22-year-old British national named Salma Abedi, according to the Associated Press. Authorities are investigating whether Abedi acted alone or as part of a larger group, as well as whether he was directed by a terror group.

The mass killing reinforces the ongoing need for strong intelligence and sophisticated counterterrorism efforts. British police, who have been battling terrorism since the Irish Republican Army’s attacks in the early 1970s, are experts in terrorism and have thwarted dozens of planned attacks on Britain.

This latest attack also underscores the importance of nations working together to gather and share intelligence. Perhaps more than most other states, Minnesota has learned the value of prevention efforts to keep young men and women from joining terrorist groups. The Editorial Board advocated for an even greater focus on building resilience in a series of 2016 editorials, “Countering extremism in Minnesota.”

The most successful counterterrorism programs are rooted in the understanding that the kind of carnage seen in England on Monday does not accurately reflect the teachings of Islam as practiced by millions of peace-loving Muslims in the U.S. and abroad. London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who is Muslim, condemned the Manchester attack as “barbaric and sickening.”

This is no time for those in Britain or the U.S. to randomly turn on neighbors who look, dress or speak differently or who practice a certain religion. Instead, those who want to join the fight against terrorism should support efforts to counter the hate-filled recruiting narrative that terrorists spread on social media.

President Trump, speaking in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, appropriately called on leaders from across the Muslim world to counter a “wicked ideology” and purge the “foot soldiers of evil” from their societies.

“This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects or different civilizations,” Trump said. He added that “this is a battle between good and evil.”

Although there is much yet to be learned about the Manchester bombing, evil took the lives of 22 people Monday in an act of cowardice that should unite all of us in doing all that we can to make sure the next would-be terrorist fails.