Manchester attack: We are locked in a new ‘arms race’ with terrorists

It’s impossible to adequately protect a very wide variety of potential targets

The Manchester attack illustrates how Western society is locked in an arms race with an ever adapting group of terrorists who keep changing their tactics and targets. Winning the battle depends on a number of complex factors and the acceptance that on the morning of June 23 Britain woke up to a new reality. A world where your teenage daughter can be killed while doing nothing more than attending a pop concert became a reality.

A suicide bomber entered the foyer at the Manchester Arena and detonated an IED loaded with shrapnel. The plan was simple, kill as many revellers as possible and sacrifice yourself in the effort. Job done. The most deadly terrorist attack in Britain in a decade.

What will be disconcerting for those tasked with keeping people safe is that this slaughter occurred at a time of already heightened security. The authorities have long been aware that crowded places offer attractive targets for terrorists and have planned for that eventuality. This is why major sporting and entertainment venues undergo site assessments and employ a range of measures aimed at blocking off attacks or at least mitigating their worst effects. These measures can range from physical security (such as fixed bollards) to prevent IEDs in vehicles from exploding near to a venue, surveillance to detect suspicious people or behaviour (principally CCTV systems) and personnel security (venue access control and patrols).

These site-specific measures are overlaid by national policing and intelligence efforts aimed at detecting, monitoring and neutralising any creditable terrorist threats – currently operating at the highest “critical” threat level. But why did these efforts fail in Manchester? (more)


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