What makes ISIS’s latest attack – on young people happily enjoying a concert in Manchester – look particularly sinister is not just the deliberately indiscriminate nature of this attack. Unfortunately that is the pattern of all of ISIS’s terrorist attacks.
Rather it is the fact that unlike some of the other attacks carried out across Europe by individuals on behalf of ISIS, this attack looks planned, and was almost certainly ordered by ISIS’s leadership.
The reasons for thinking this are as follows:
(1) ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack before the British authorities have released any information about the terrorists who carried it out. That suggests that ISIS knows who the terrorists are, and that they working under its orders;
(2) the nature of the attack suggests that more than one person was involved, a fact which points to a conspiracy and to the attack being the work of an ISIS terrorist cell;
(3) the target appears to have been carefully chosen to cause the maximum impact, causing the greatest possible fear and alarm amongst parents of teenage children and young adults, who must now fear for their children’s safety if they attend such concerts.
(4) the attack appears to be intended to underline the contrast between what ISIS calls “Western decadence” and the austerity it purports to live by.
A concert like this brings together many of the things in the West which ISIS condemns as “hedonistic” and “decadent”: pop music, dancing, gender mixing, girls dressed in party clothes etc. The intention is to be to appeal to Muslim youth in the West by underlining the contrast between ISIS – which supposedly champions Islam, which supposedly condemns and prohibits these things – and their practice in the West.
ISIS’s claim to austerity is in fact hypocritical and bogus. Reliable reports from Syria confirm that ISIS sustains the morale of its fighters by supplying them with plentiful quantities of sex slaves and drugs. However in a propaganda war it is the perception amongst young Muslims in the West of what ISIS is, not the reality, which is what matters.
(5) the timing of the attack – in the middle of Britain’s election campaign – is surely not coincidental, and also points to careful planning. In the most brutal way imaginable ISIS has now intruded itself into the British political process.
The fact that it is highly likely that an ISIS terrorist cell was behind this attack unfortunately leaves open the possibility that more such attacks are planned.
It also raises important questions about the attack itself. Reports suggest that it was the work of a suicide bomber, in which case he must have somehow managed to gain access to the concert venue. That suggests a breakdown of security. Unfortunately it also points to the possibility that the suicide bomber had inside help, which is another reason for thinking that the attack was planned.
Undoubtedly over the next few days we shall learn more about this attack. The British authorities claim that they have already identified those responsible. Let’s hope they are right, and that they have all been caught.