Terrorism: April 29, 2005

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Over a thousand people were killed in terrorist attacks last year. The major attacks were the Chechen massacre at a school in Russia, that killed 330, and the Madrid train bombings. There were 45 attacks in Israel, up from 19 the year before. But the Israelis also managed to shut down terrorist operations by the end of the year. In Russia, the Chechen terrorists lost several leaders and, more importantly, the support of many Chechens. The murder of so many children turned out to be a public relations disaster for the Chechen terrorists. Public opinion was already turning against them in Chechnya, mainly because of their inability to get the Russians out. More Chechens were switching allegiance to the pro-Russian Chechen government anyway, and the school massacre just speeded up the process.

After the Madrid bombing, the Spanish police arrested hundreds of suspected terrorists they had been watching. Many of these turned out, on closer inspection, to have been very much involved in planning and carrying out terrorist operations. There are still a few Islamic terrorists in Spain, but they cannot operate as freely as they did before the March, 2004, attack.

Afghanistan saw an increase in terrorist attacks in 2004, with 27 major incidents (where people got killed.) But by the end of the year, most of the Taliban groups were ready to make peace with the government, and were not getting along with the local al Qaeda at all. Moreover, the majority of Afghans were down on al Qaeda, turning them in at every opportunity. Many attacks were thus thwarted. 

Pakistan saw a decline in al Qaeda activity. The many Islamic radicals in the country are more interested in killing Pakistani Shias and Christians, or non-Moslems in Kashmir. With the police after them, and most of the population against them, al Qaeda is having a hard time in Pakistan. Even Kashmir has seen a decline in activity, mainly because the border with Pakistan is now much harder for the Islamic terrorists to get across.

Iraq remained the center of the war on terror, with most of the attacks being directed at Iraqis. This turned the population, including many Sunni Arabs, against the terrorists. While there were still plenty of volunteers for suicide bombings, and plenty of cash and explosives handy to pay for it, the al Qaeda campaign in Iraq had become a losing proposition. Even outside of Iraq, many Sunni Arabs were getting disenchanted with al Qaeda terrorism. In a war of symbols, blowing up Moslem women and children is not a winning tactic.

Another major difference between 2003 and 2004, was the shifting of al Qaeda support from people in Moslem countries to expatriate Moslems in Europe. Many al Qaeda members had fled their native countries, because of the increasingly hostile atmosphere, for the relative sanctuary of Europe. Going into 2005, al Qaeda is dying in Iraq and plotting in Europe.

 

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