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Horror in Manchester

MAY 25, 2017(Ref:thehindu.com)

The attack highlights the daunting challenge of reversing Islamic State-driven radicalisation

For the Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for Monday night’s suicide attack in Manchester that left at least 22 people dead and 59 injured, all those who were present at the city’s main indoor arena to attend Ariana Grande’s concert were infidels. All of them were just innocent teenagers and the blast hit them when they were leaving after the concert. It is a familiar story. Over the past three years, terrorists have repeatedly struck Western cities, massacring unarmed civilians, including children. Be it the Bataclan theatre in Paris, the Brussels airport or the Manchester Arena, terror has aimed to unleash maximum panic and thereby create divisions in societies, challenge the public’s faith in their institutions and trigger ethnic, racial or religious tensions. So when in a statement issued on the Internet the IS boasts of killing and injuring “100 crusaders” in Manchester, it is actually trying to hard-sell its world view of a “holy war” between the two largest faiths. Investigators are yet to confirm the IS link. But the exact affiliation of the perpetrator may be immaterial to groups such as the IS and al-Qaeda, which have contracted out their violent, polarising ideology to extremist cells and individuals across the world. The British government has, wisely, refused to play ball so far. In a strong message delivered from Downing Street, Prime Minister Theresa May has hailed the spirit of Britain, which “through years of conflict and terrorism has never been broken and will never be broken”.

The attack, the first major terror strike in 12 years in the country, raises daunting challenges for the U.K. Over the past 18 months alone, British intelligence agencies, deemed to be among the best in terms of resources and efficiency, have reportedly thwarted at least 12 terrorist plots. Still, the 22-year-old Salman Abedi, a British national of Libyan origin, slipped off their radar, entered the Arena complex and detonated an improvised bomb at its foyer. While more details about Abedi are yet to emerge, there are already questions about how he got his hands on an improvised bomb small enough to conceal in a belt or behind a vest. For Britain, this is going to be a long fight with no quick fixes on the cards. Hundreds of British nationals had travelled to Syria, a country that is being bombed by the U.K., the U.S. and several other countries, to join the IS over the past three years. Many of them came back, and with the IS under growing pressure in Syria and Iraq many more battle-hardened men could return, aggravating the situation. While Britain has raised its threat level to critical in the aftermath of the attack, a longer-term challenge for the political and community leadership is to find a way to address the challenge of radicalism.

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