Manchester, 22 May 2017

Two months since the attack in Westminster, there has been an act of terrorism in Manchester, killing and wounding many, late last night (22 May 2017). It is yet another dark, sickening, and horrendous incident.

According to press reports thus far, this outrage was perpetrated by a single individual who died detonating an IED, i.e. by a suicide bomber. This should worry the law enforcement and counter-terrorist agencies.

Over the past few years, there have been many forms and methods of terrorist attacks in Europe. There have been large-scale devastating attacks by highly-organized terrorist cells and groups in Paris and Brussels, as well as in London back in 2005. There have also been attacks by lone actors employing low-tech methods such as lorries and vehicles as the means to cause harm: they have proven to be deadly and difficult to prevent, as evidenced by the attacks in Nice, Berlin, London, and Stockholm. Perhaps the metro bombing in St Petersburg is the most recent similar terrorist attack in that explosives were used by a lone suspect.

The two possible scenarios for a lone suicide bomber causing carnage are both terrifying. If this was truly an act by a single terrorist who had managed to source the necessarily know-how and materials to build a bomb, plan and carry out the attack, and whose presence had not been picked up by the security services, then how many more potential lone attackers are out there and how could they be identified? If the bomber was a member of a group, which had supplied the bomber with the device as well as operational knowledge, then how was it that the bomber and the group had not come to the attention of the security services, and is the group still under the radar?

A clearer picture should emerge soon regarding the attack and its perpetrator(s), but the sadness and sorrow of those who have been affected will remain for much longer.