Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Terrorist groups set to piggyback on soccer spectacular

Terrorist groups set to piggyback on soccer spectacular
June 2010
Gareth Stokes : gareth@fanews.co.za

Gareth Stokes
FAnews Online Editor
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As we countdown to the 11 June 2010 FIFA Word Cup ™ kick-off, we’ve already received the first media warnings of possible terrorist attacks. These warnings were loosely based on news that Iraq security forces had arrested an alleged al-Qaeda militant for posing a threat to certain World Cup teams. Although local authorities have thus far denied any possible threats it remains near impossible to predict irrational acts. While we appreciate the local security forces’ assurances that they’re prepared for any eventuality, we fear the temptation of developed world football teams, porous international borders and a 30 billion-strong worldwide television audience may prove too much for terrorists to resist. Extremists groups intent on targeting ‘Western’ businesses view the football event as the perfect stage to broadcast their respective causes.
The experts agree, with some risk analysts announcing an 80% chance of a terror ‘event’ during the month-long tournament. Latest insurance thinking recognises terrorist attacks as foreseeable risks. That’s why Aon Crisis Management – a business practice of leading global provider of risk management services, Aon Corporation – is distributing its Counter Terrorism Risk Management brochure. The company is raising awareness around the unfortunate but necessary interplay between insurers, underwriters and terrorism.
The evolution of terror
Why have terrorist organisations been so quiet of late? Aon says international counterterrorism efforts have stifled the ability of terrorist groups to mount attacks on the scale witnessed in the September 2001 World Trade Centre attack. They say extremist groups such as al-Qaeda have gone into hiding, focusing on rebuilding their networks in traditional conflict zones rather than launching new large-scale attacks. “Concerns remain, however, about such networks and [their] followers in Europe and North America, as well as the re-emergence of more traditional left, right and nationalist terrorist groups,” Aon notes. Is the world a safer place?
“If you are looking at whether, on a global scale, we are safer from terrorism this year than last, the difference is marginal, but reflects the pressure we have exerted on our foes over the long term to contain their growth,” says General Richard Myers, retired chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff and a member of Aon’s board of directors. He says US intelligence learns more about the cells operating inside their borders each year and that steady progress is being made in countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. The difficulty with extremist groups is they are extremely mobile. Myers observes: “As we exert pressure on jihadist groups in their preferred territories, they are likely to seek new homes and affiliations in countries that have limited capacity to deal with them.” There has been a significant increase in terrorist cells operating in northern and eastern Africa, including Algeria, Mali and Somalia.
Tackling the threat
How does one counter the terrorism threat? Governments and corporations should be cognisant of shifting trends in global terrorism to ensure their citizens and employees are safe at all times. “2009 and 2010 have been years of tactical innovation for terrorist groups,” notes Paul Bassett, chief executive officer of Aon Crisis Management. He mentions two attempts at ‘underwear bombings’ and threats from “a blonde-haired blue-eyed female Muslim convert” as example. “We encourage businesses to implement security risk controls proportionate to threats to their personnel and assets,” he adds. Companies must identify and reduce their vulnerabilities based on an expert risk assessment.
Aon and Janusian Risk Advisory (an international intelligence, investigations and security firm) have developed a set of tools to assist businesses with the task of assessing and managing terrorism risk. They maintain a Terrorism Tracker database that allows subscribers to conduct their own research on terrorist activity around the world before displaying these results on Google Maps. The Terrorism Tracker database is also used to compile a comprehensive map of terrorism activities and risks worldwide – the Aon 2010 Terrorism Threat Map. This interactive map can be requested at http://www.aon.com/terrorismmap.
The map assigns each of 200 countries a score based on pre-selected terrorism threat indicators. The indicators include evidence of known and active groups or networks operating in a given country, aims and stated objectives of these groups or networks, track record of terrorist activity by these groups or networks (including target selection and activity levels), operational capabilities of these groups or networks to stage attacks, and the likely erosion of terrorist capabilities through the current counterterrorism regime in the given country. Threat levels begin with Low, and rise through Guarded, Elevated, High and Severe.
At 1 June 2010 – just 10 days before the Word Cup kick-off – the United States is classified as having an ‘Elevated’ risk. This follows a number of incidents during 2009, including Fort Hood, the foiled Christmas Day airliner attack over Detroit and the May 2010 bomb scare at Times Square (New York). Current risk factors include Global Islamist and Single Interest – with New York, Washington DC and Los Angeles singled out as cities of concern. South Africa also carries an ‘Elevated’ risk tag – though no specific risks are indicated.
Editor’s thoughts: There you have it. A week before the first game in the 2010 FIFA World Cup ™ and the perceived terrorism threat to South Africa is on par with the world’s largest economy. Clearly we have nothing to worry about. Do you think South Africa has done enough to secure its borders and protect its citizens from terrorist attacks, during the event and after? Add your comments below, or send them to gareth@fanews.co.za

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