A series of deadly terrorist attacks has once again resulted in worldwide shock waves.
The latest attacks occurred in the center of the Belgian capital, Brussels, with explosions at the international airport and in the metro station near European Union government buildings. A third bomb was deactivated at the airport. At least 32 people were killed and dozens were injured.
Once again, sensibilities have heightened. The world we live in has long ago undergone a terrible change. We live in a new normal in which vigilance is not just some easily dismissed word. People, no matter where they are, must take their new responsibility seriously. If you see something, say something.
Right now the people of Brussels have been left stunned. Belgian officials have put the city on lockdown and raised the national terror alert to its highest level. Prime Minister Charles Michel confirmed that these were terrorist attacks. The Islamic terrorist group ISIS claimed responsibility.
Germany and France strengthened security at their borders, airports and metro stations. President François Hollande of France vowed “to relentlessly fight terrorism, both internationally and internally,” according to reporting in the New York Times. He added, “Through the Brussels attacks, it is the whole of Europe that is hit.”
President Obama vowed the United States would stand in solidarity with Belgium and would aid in the investigation and in bringing the perpetrators to justice. People, no matter where they live, are on alert. This is a problem for all open societies, including the United States.
To that point, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority this morning announced an increase in police presence at the Buffalo and Niagara Falls airports and within the Metro Rail system. Officials called it an “abundance of caution” on the part of the authority to “make the traveling public and employees at these facilities feel more secure.”
All are necessary measures in a changed landscape. Attacks such as the one launched in Brussels are deadly reminders of that fact.
The explosions there occurred days after Belgian authorities arrested Salah Abdeslam, suspected to be the remaining attacker to have survived November’s terrorist attacks in Paris.
ISIS showed startling abilities when it attacked Paris, killing 130. Few thought it had the ability to carry out such a wide-scale and sophisticated act of aggression. Experts indicate the group appears to be weakening in Syria and Iraq and instead focusing on Europe.
The Economist wrote that the terrorists might have had a three-fold goal: achieving a propaganda coup in dominating the world’s headlines; avoiding the possibility that Abdeslam might, under interrogation, divulge the plan; and inspiring other young Europeans to support jihadists.
All are plausible theories, along with other points by experts published in both Time and the Independent, which mention intelligence expert warnings about jihadists who have tapped into Mafia-type organized crime. That would provide highly sophisticated smuggling operations convenient for logistics support in transporting people, creating fake identity papers or selling weapons.
And, as the Independent article stated, ISIS may have relished targeting a country that regards itself as “supremely international” but has become “dysfunctionally preoccupied with parish politics.”
An international country such as Belgium might have made attacking its central city, Brussels, easy work for terrorists. A number of its citizens have traveled to Syria and Iraq.
It is early. Investigations are underway. Everyone must remain vigilant in this new normal and work for the day when it won’t be necessary.