A May 22 bomb attack following a performance by U.S. singer Ariana Grande in Manchester, England, left at least 22 people dead and around 59 others injured, according to police. It is but the latest example of terrorist violence perpetrated by “refugees” or the sons of “refugees” in Europe over the past few years. It it should also cause Brits and others to consider whether importing the Middle East and its problems to the West is sound policy, as well as what has ignited the tragic refugee crisis to begin with.
A 23-year-old man identified as Salman Abedi, stood in a foyer connecting Manchester Arena with the city’s Victoria railroad station as fans exited the concert and detonated a device loaded with shrapnel, which was designed to kill or injure as many people as possible. Abedi was born in Manchester to parents who emigrated to London from Libya. Very little information about Abedi has been released, except that he was “known to authorities,” who did not consider him to be an immediate threat.
Britain’s Telegraph quoted Greater Manchester Chief Constable Ian Hopkins, who issued a statement on May 23: “I can confirm that the man suspected of carrying out last night's atrocity has been named as 22-year-old Salman Abedi. However, he has not yet been formally identified and I wouldn’t wish, therefore, to comment further.”
“The priority remains to establish whether he was acting alone or as part of a network.”
On the morning following the bombing, ISIS claimed responsibility for it in a brief statement that did not identify the bomber and also appeared to get some of the facts of the attack wrong.
The ISIS statement said a “caliphate soldier managed to place a number of devices among a gathering of crusaders in Manchester, and detonated them.” However, officials say there was only one explosion, and no other devices have been discovered at the arena. Because of these discrepancies, officials have not yet determined if Abedi was directed by ISIS, though he may have been sympathetic to the terrorist group’s jihad.
A CBS News report noted that some terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States have been claimed by individuals who support ISIS and have made contact with its members, but were not directly supported or guided by the terror network.
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May said the attacker deliberately chose his time and place to “maximize carnage and to kill and injure indiscriminately.”
“All acts of terrorism are cowardly attacks on innocent people but this attack stands out for its appalling, sickening cowardice — deliberately targeting innocent, defenseless children and young people who should have been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives,” May said outside her Downing Street residence.
The youngest victim who died in the attack was eight-year-old Saffie Rose Roussos, who was a pupil at Tarleton Primary School, in Lancashire.
The Trump administration’s Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said while testifying in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee on May 23 that the Manchester attack should serve as a reminder that the terrorist threat is “not going away and it needs significant attention.”
Coats also said that ISIS frequently claims responsibility for terror attacks, and their claim of responsibility for the Manchester attack has yet to be verified by U.S. officials
President Trump commented on the Manchester terror attack during a press conference in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, saying:
“So many young beautiful innocent people living and enjoying their lives murdered by evil losers in life. I won’t call them monsters because they would like that term. They would think that’s a great name. I will call them from now on losers because that’s what they are.”
Trump continued his remarks while standing alongside Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas: “This wicked ideology must be obliterated.”
“Our society can have no tolerance for this continuation of bloodshed. We cannot stand a moment longer for the slaughter of innocent people. And in today’s attack it was mostly innocent children. The terrorists and extremists and those who give them aid and comfort must be driven out from our society forever.”
Major media reports of this event failed to note the irony of Trump’s remarks being delivered while sharing a platform with Abbas, who succeeded Yassar Arafat as the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 2004. The PLO was considered by the United States and Israel to be a terrorist organization until the Madrid Conference in 1991. In 1993, the PLO agreed to recognize Israel’s right to exist in peace, accepted UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, and rejected “violence and terrorism.” In response, Israel officially recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people.
Despite the PLO’s apparent softening, Abbas’s history with the organization does cast doubts on his ability to take a hard-line stance against terrorists.
Furthermore, as was reported in an article in The New American last September, Abbas was a KGB agent in the 1980s, according to documents smuggled out of Russia by a former Soviet archivist. Abbas also pursued graduate studies at the Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow, when it was still the capital of the communist Soviet Union.
This latest terrorist attack in Manchester was Britain’s deadliest since the July 7, 2005 event, when four British suicide bombers inspired by al-Qaeda staged an attack in London’s transport system, killing 52 people, as well as themselves, and wounding 700.
India’s FirstPost reported that in another attack last March, five people were killed and more than 50 were wounded when a man drove his car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in London. The attacker, a Muslim convert named Khalid Mahmood, was shot dead by police at the scene. The attack was officially described as “Islamist related terrorism.”
Of course, Great Britain is not the only nation in Europe that has suffered from terrorist attacks. We noted in our article for March 25, 2016 that ISIS had trained an estimated 400 fighters and sent them to Europe to carry out attacks such as those killing 130 people in Paris on November 13, 2015 and 34 people in Brussels on March 22, 2016, according to a March 23, 2016 Associated Press report.
That AP report stated that European and Iraqi intelligence officials and French Senator Nathalie Goulet, who is co-head of a commission tracking jihadi networks had described camps in Syria, Iraq, and possibly nations of the former Soviet bloc, where attackers are trained to target the West.
In addition to attackers sent into Europe from elsewhere, the children of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa have also become radicalized and joined terrorist networks. The outstanding example was Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the individual that French and Belgian officials identified as the mastermind of the November, 2015 Paris attacks, who was the child of Moroccan immigrants who grew up in Brussels.
While growing up in Brussels, Abaaoud was friends with a Belgian-born French national of Moroccan descent named Salah Abdeslam. After Abaaoud returned to Brussels following a period of terrorist activity in Syria in 2014, he recruited Abdeslam into his terrorist network and both men conspired to carry out the Paris attacks.
While the links between Middle Eastern and North African refugees in Europe and terrorist groups in their homelands can easily be traced, it is even more important to understand the factors that have destabilized those nations, radicalized many of their inhabitants, and caused hundreds of thousands of people to flee those lands for Europe.
It is important for Americans, as well as Europeans, to understand these factors, because while Europe has so far borne the brunt of the refugee flow and suffered the worst terrorist attacks, the United States is also vulnerable to similar experiences. Even President Trump’s March 6 executive order (“Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorists’ Entry Into the United States”), which would ban foreign nationals from six countries identified as being state sponsors of terrorism or havens for terrorists (and is currently on hold due to a judge’s order) would only be a symptomatic remedy and would not go to the heart of the problem.
The best, most concise explanation of the ultimate cause of this crisis we have read was written by former Rep. Ron Paul and reprinted by The New American in 2015. In his article, “The Real Refugee Problem – and How to Solve It,” Paul wrote:
The reason so many are fleeing places like Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, and Iraq is that US and European interventionist foreign policy has left these countries destabilized with no hopes of economic recovery. This mass migration from the Middle East and beyond is a direct result of the neocon foreign policy of regime change, invasion, and pushing “democracy” at the barrel of a gun.
Since most of the problems associated with the refugee flow — including terrorist acts performed by either radicals embedded with the refugees or radicalized children of refugees — have occurred in Europe, Paul also address their foreign policy:
The Europeans share a good deal of blame as well. France and the UK were enthusiastic supporters of the attack on Libya and they were early backers of the “Assad must go” policy. Assad may not be a nice guy, but the forces that have been unleashed to overthrow him seem to be much worse and far more dangerous. No wonder people are so desperate to leave Syria.
Paul concludes his article:
Here is the real solution to the refugee problem: stop meddling in the affairs of other countries. Embrace the prosperity that comes with a peaceful foreign policy, not the poverty that goes with running an empire. End the Empire!
As for when a refugee problem becomes a terrorism problem, it is when terrorists infiltrate a country hidden among the refugees, as has repeatedly happened in European countries during recent years.
Though he did not include it in the above-cited article, Paul has often spoken and written about the phenomenon called “blowback” — the reaction that is generated when we intervene in other nations’ affairs. Very often, the difference between a moderate Muslim and a radical Islamist, is that the latter has witnessed invasions of his homeland by Western military forces, making him vulnerable to the recruitment efforts of terrorist groups such as al Qaeda and ISIS.
The very tragic events that have taken place in cities like Paris, London, and Manchester are quite likely part of the “collateral damage” of the West’s interventionist activities abroad.