The British government raised its terror threat level from “severe” to “critical” following the bombing in Manchester, meaning that another terror attack may be imminent.
“The work undertaken throughout the day has revealed that it is a possibility we cannot ignore that there is a wider group of individuals linked to this attack,” Prime Minister Theresa May announced, adding that counter-terrorism officials believe “not only that an attack remains highly likely, but that a further attack may be imminent.”
The announcement marks the first time in 10 years that the government has deemed the threat level from international terrorism to be critical, its highest possible rating. For most of the last decade, the warning level has shifted between “substantial” and “severe,” meaning that at all times officials believed that an attack was at least a “strong possibility.”
The 22-year-old man suspected of carrying out the Monday night attack just outside an arena after an Ariana Grande concert, Salman Abedi, is an English-born son of Libyan immigrants who was a student at the University of Salford in Manchester.
An investigator in protective forensic gear was photographed carrying a booklet titled “Know Your Chemicals!” out of a Manchester address linked to Abedi as officials executed search warrants on two properties in the area to determine how the bomb was assembled and whether he had any help.
Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the bombing at the Manchester Arena, where concertgoers — many of them girls and young women — had just left the 21,000-seat venue. Investigators have not confirmed the group’s involvement in the attack, which wounded more than 59 people.
The bomb used shrapnel designed to cut and kill, but was crudely designed and investigators are determining whether it was homemade, according to U.S. law enforcement officials briefed on the British investigation.
Police have also arrested a 23-year-old man in connection with the bombing but have not released further details about his identity or the nature of his suspected involvement.
David Gartenstein-Ross of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies writes that the new threat we are facing is from terrorist organizations with an adaptability and ability to learn that we have not seen before:
Those who predicted the decline of jihadism in 2011 missed several things. Most important, perhaps, is the sheer innovativeness and adaptability of major jihadist groups. For jihadist organizations, the ability to innovate is a necessity, not a luxury. Terrorist groups have a “fundamental organizational imperative” to learn, as the preeminent terrorism scholar Bruce Hoffman noted in his classic book Inside Terrorism. As they face an array of internal and external challenges—the most significant being the existential threat they confront from state actors—these groups must adapt quickly and creatively or suffer the consequences.
Across a range of organizations—not just militant groups—organizational learning occurs when the knowledge that an individual gains can be transferred into broader organizational knowledge. One example of this is al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s notorious bomb-maker Ibrahim al-Asiri, who was able to transfer his extraordinary technical knowledge to the organization as a whole. This is reflected in the concerns expressed by security experts several years ago that al-Asiri’s knowledge had been transferred from Yemen to the Syria theater. When knowledge is disseminated through an organization’s memory in this way, the organization is “no longer dependent upon the original learner,” and can impart knowledge to others within the group, according to Mick Beeby and Charles Booth. This process is particularly essential for jihadist groups that suffer from high levels of attrition, and thus must quickly encode new techniques into their organizational DNA or risk losing them.
The question we should all be asking is: Are western governments doing enough to protect their citizens? I am in the camp that believes we give the terrorists what they want if we surrender some of our civil liberties to make us safer. But the deadening effect of political correctness keeps authorities from drawing obvious conclusions about exactly where the threat is coming.
Does this mean we round Muslims up and put them in camps? Of course not, although opponents of more vigorous measures to safeguard the public would have you believe that’s what we want. Nor does it mean that we violate the rights of Muslims by unnecessary or illegal surveillance.
But as long as Muslims insist that jihadist terrorism is not based on religious tenets — no matter how twisted the “evil losers” might make them — and as long as the political class agrees with them, the danger will grow and more attacks will be forthcoming.