A familiar introspection set in after the horrific terrorist attack on a concert in Manchester, England. True to form, celebrities and provocateurs flew to their corners. Immigration was the topic; both sides argued that it should either be curtailed or that the UK must stay its pluralistic course. Given the nature of the attack, however, an extroverted response seems more justified. The attack in Manchester was a remarkably sophisticated one and likely benefited from foreign assistance. Moreover, it has been accompanied by a wave of global terrorism.
The bomb that was used to kill adolescent concert-goers in Manchester wasn’t slapdash. Housed in a lightweight metal container, the weapon was designed to maximize the explosive force. It used a Yuasa 12-volt lead-acid battery, which is pricier than the kind of power cell you can buy over-the-counter. The detonator had a circuit board soldered into it, and it is believed that the device could have been detonated in two ways—both remotely and by hand. The suicide bomber who used it was trained to stand in the middle of a crowd so the screws and bolts in his weapon would yield the most casualties possible.
The investigation into this attack has produced at least six arrests and expanded to Germany and Libya. This was not the kind of terrorism to which we’ve become accustomed; the self-radicalized lone-wolf Westerner who uses low-tech methods to execute a quick attack before law enforcement can catch on to the plot. This was a return to a terrible status quo ante. Furthermore, this was not an isolated event.
On the same day that 22 were killed in Manchester, a bomb ripped through a military hospital in Bangkok on the third anniversary of a military coup that brought the Thai Junta to power. There was no claim of responsibility for the blast, but the government blamed an amorphous cast of dissidents who oppose the military government. Muslim separatists in the country’s south were also suspected of executing the attack that wounded 24 people. Bombing and shooting attacks are increasingly common in the country’s Muslim-dominated regions, but attacks on the country’s capital are rarer.
Two days before the Manchester bombing, a wave of suicide attacks in Iraq killed more than 50 people. Near simultaneous bombings in or near Baghdad and Basra were claimed by the Islamic State. A day after the Manchester attack, two bombings targeted the Syrian cities of Damascus and Homs. The Syrian state-controlled news agency further reported on the neutralization of two other suicide attackers. They were confronted near Damascus International Airport before they could detonate another device.
While ISIS militants are being rolled up in Syria and Iraq, they are facing pressure elsewhere as well. President Rodrigo Duterte’s government in the Philippines declared martial law for the entire island of Mindanao to combat ISIS-linked militants holed up there. As of Thursday, the fighting has claimed at least 31 militants, 11 government soldiers, and two police officers. True to the brutal form of the Duterte government, the government’s siege of the city of Marawi—where the ISIS-linked Abu Sayyaf is mounting a counter-attack—included aerial bombardment despite the mayor’s request for Manilla to refrain from such actions.
If the pressure on ISIS in the Middle East is compelling the organization to export terrorism to Europe, the pressure on ISIS in the Pacific is forcing the group to move ahead with plots in Asia. On Friday, the Islamic State claimed a bombing at a bus station in Jakarta, Indonesia, that claimed the lives of three police officers and wounded 12 others. It was the deadliest ISIS attack in the Southeast Asian country since January of 2016, when four were killed in a coordinated bombing and shooting attack on the capital.
And today, in Egypt, 28 Coptic Christians were gunned down amid a coordinated shooting attack on a bus by ten masked assailants. It was the worst attack on Egypt’s Christian minority since April when more than 40 Coptic Christians were killed in two bombings of Egyptian churches. “We will not hesitate to protect our people from the evil,” said President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi in a televised address to the country following the attacks. He revealed that Cairo had responded to the assault by mounting air strikes on “terrorist training camps” across the border in Libya.
All this bloodshed occurred in the space of one week. A new wave of Islamist terrorism seems to be ongoing, and Manchester was just the tip of the iceberg.