The radicalised ‘lone wolf’attacker | Daily News


The radicalised ‘lone wolf’attacker

Safety and security continue to be the most talked-about topic after the Black Sunday attacks. Churches have commenced Sunday services with security from the police and their own safety committees. The military and police have worked round the clock to secure the nation, and the manhunt for jihadist suspects will go on.

The jihadist ideology remains deposited in the depths of the radicalised human mind. We can no longer visually profile a violent extremist. After making their terrorist entry on Black Sunday, they will activate their second tier of stealthy attacks whenever possible using radicalised individuals or ‘lone wolfs’ as they are branded in global law enforcement circles.

Even 73 years after Second World War, the Nazi ideology is manifesting in Europe and the US, so this is a powerful example of how radical ideology takes root and grows. Any person from any religious or communal background with hatred against the state can manifest these violent actions.

The lone wolf shooter

Investigating agencies have now confirmed that many suspects within the National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) received basic weapon training, some overseas. They have the motivation and mindset to shoot. The individual background of each shooter is complex. The crime scenes of the future will focus on one criminally orientated subversive - this is not a grey prophecy, but a realistic snapshot of dormant terror. (e.g., to this very hour random incidents of hurling grenades or stabbing people takes place in Israel).

A radicalised active shooter is ‘an individual engaged in killing people in a confined or populated area’. The first half of this profile demonstrates that the radicalised shooter operates alone. He or she does not plan their mission with anyone (except instructions from an overseeing handler). They are willing to take the full credit for the deadly act. Their selection of ‘soft targets’ is always a place where there are people. The jihadist shooter wants a public display to spread their message of hatred and also secure the praise of their leadership.

Often targets are schools, mega malls, railway stations, public parks, churches and temples. These places at present have invested in security, but for how long will these premises maintain the present enthusiastic momentum? Imagine a crowded bazaar like Pettah, Galle Face promenade full of children, or the culmination of a church service when hundreds come out of the front door - how enticing for the lone wolf attacker?

The latest news showed that NTJ suspects had purchased white clothing and robes worn by Buddhist monks. This was surely for lone wolf attacks inside sacred temples during Vesak. The effective response to a lone wolf attack is vigilance by people and the rapid response of police within minutes, a daunting challenge especially during peak traffic hours in Colombo city. The shooter will use a semi or fully automatic weapon, the aim being to maximise casualties within a limited window of time, probably 20 seconds. Thankfully, the Army has an expert Anti Hostage Rescue team consisting of men from the Commando Regiment, and the Special Task Force has its Quick Response Teams (QRT) on motorcycles.

Mindset of the lone attacker

The lone wolf has a complex pattern of behaviour which is hard to understand. They never arouse the suspicion of their family members, co-workers or friends. Many of the shooters will be gainfully employed in the corporate sector or excel in private business. They may worship regularly at a mosque. Some would engage in sports to build a good image in their community and erase any suspicion.

From a criminal viewpoint, the jihadist active shooter does not fit into the general pattern of a murderer or serial killer. A serial killer commits a prolonged crime spree, yet operates in a low profile, hunting his victims one at a time. In contrast, the lone wolf attacker will engage in a bloody and fatal ‘one-time encounter’ in a compressed timeframe. The serial killer hides the corpse, but the radicalised shooter wants fame for his slaughter.

Another point is that the lone wolf shooter does not want to hide or escape. They will come prepared for a shootout unto death with police to be glorified as a martyr. They desire publicity. Often the shooter will post a brief homemade video on YouTube or Facebook, seconds before the attack (but will not disclose the chosen target) trying to justify their actions. We saw such a video by the extremists who orchestrated Black Sunday.

Emotional intelligence

In criminology, a serial killer is a person who has undergone physical or emotional abuse over many years. He then takes revenge from his single victims, swiftly evading arrest. In contrast, the lone wolf attacker is initially either a victim of bullying; or one who is delusional, rejected and has low self-esteem, is not qualified academically, not financially secure and may not have a beautiful physical appearance. All these attributes make it easy for them to be brainwashed by manipulative jihadist handlers. The lack of academic and social skills will stop this attacker from being entrusted with a suicide attack. Hence, a lower profile easier attack of throwing a grenade or shooting with a pistol or using a knife to stab a few people or clergy.

The lone wolf is ‘emotionally displaced’ by one incident that may trigger the need for revenge found in misguided religion. An ideological murderer is a person who is strongly infused with extreme patterns of religious orthodoxy. They attribute their deviant actions to radical religious teachings which they have embraced. The Oklahoma City bombing in the US is an example of this kind of mindset, where 168 lives were lost within a few seconds. The ideological killer has a strong adherence to his belief.

Given the unexpected outburst of this kind of carnage, the police face a challenge in responding to a lone wolf shooter or attacker in the future. Often the people being shot at may not have access to a phone. Even if they carried a mobile phone they will panic and not be in a safe position to dial for help. The radicalised shooter takes a glorified stance of dominance. He will never negotiate with police or hostage rescue teams. He comes ready to die.

In mitigating these threats, it is the time that school van services should be regulated with monthly police checks. School vans must have a visible ID badge number under each police division such as Colombo Central, Colombo North and Colombo South. It will help police and comfort anxious parents. Once again we must remember not all Muslims are extremists; there are thousands who are peace-loving and decent citizens. We must remain alert and protect each other in a united Sri Lanka.

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