LIKE most good ideas, criminologist Dr Paul Gill’s suggestion for tackling ‘lone wolf’ terrorism is breathtakingly simple: such killers always leave a trail, so, instead of identifying this when it is too late and the damage has been done, why not try to detect it in advance?
The clues are often there, he says; all you need are the right tools to find them.
The murderous activities of ideologically driven lone terrorists continue to defy law enforcement efforts in the United States, France, Germany, Belgium, the UK and elsewhere.
While police and other agencies rely on monitoring electronic communications to detect terrorists planning an attack, this will be of little use in pinpointing someone who is acting alone and may be a loner by nature.
The fact that such killers are often suicidal and care as little for their own lives as they do for their victims makes them harder to spot.
But not impossible, according to Dr Gill who advocates a multi-disciplinary approach to detecting the bomber or gunman in the making.
Terrorists are big on publicity. They want the world to know who they are — or were — and why they did what they did and the cause they espouse. In that event, they are likely to communicate at least some of their intentions.
As the recent outrages show, terrorists have no respect for borders.
Up to recently, Germans considered themselves largely immune from terrorism but the huge influx of migrants into the country has changed that.
Spared for a while the fate of Paris, Brussels and Nice, Germans thought they were safe but they have now endured four terror attacks in the space of a week. And the sad reality is that most of these attacks were the products of Islamist fundamentalism.
Neither do the terrorists have any respect for the traditional sanctuary of a church, as the brutal assault and murder yesterday of a Catholic priest in Normandy shows.
If the likes of Islamic State and other murderous groups can achieve their desire to spread fear and terror by simply inspiring disaffected youngsters to do their dirty work for them, they will do so and it will not bother them that their ‘soldiers of Islam’ are likely to die in the process.
Our democratic institutions and our way of life is being challenged by an insideous force of evil and we need to find new ways to combat it. The old method of squaring up for battle will not work any longer.
It may be that we will need more than a military solution to combat this latest form of terrorism. It took the British government 30 years to realise that the IRA could not be defeated by military might alone. Hearts and minds had to be won also and genuine grievances recognised and countered.
We need to use brain as well as brawn to meet the challenge of 21st century terrorism.
Our very lives and the lives of our children may depend upon it.
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