Managing the risks after Sousse

Friday 10/07/2015

The terrorist attack in Tunisia has preoccu­pied public opinion locally and interna­tionally. It came as a shock. It was a well-planned stealth operation. Such events happen in the most powerful of nations but for Tunisia it was by all measures a major catastrophe.
The scene of the attack was worthy of a Hollywood hor­ror film. The perpetrator’s cold bloodedness and the time the massacre lasted raise a host of questions about the brainwash­ing he was subjected to, the competence of the operation’s planners and the number of individuals involved. Surely the killer must have had help from partners who witnessed the operation and then faded away in the ensuing chaos.
The choices of the hotel and the nationalities of the victims were not accidental. The assassin must have benefited from precise intelligence. He must have care­fully cased the location. He knew very well that it would take time for security forces to respond. He was not planning on escaping and must have carried out his macabre plan convinced that he would be killed on sight.
The terrorist did not target Tunisian citizens. This can only indicate that he was subjected to intensive training in tactical discipline to be able to carry out only what he was ordered to do without any hesitation, doubt or fear.
The goal is to weaken the national economy by hitting the tourism sector with the overrid­ing objective to shatter Tunisia’s image as a peaceful country. An­other objective seemed to be to hurt Western countries by killing their citizens. If we accept the as­sumption that the planners knew the nationalities of the guests of that particular hotel, then each country whose citizens were among the victims is targeted. The message is clear: you’re next.
In any case, the Sousse attack, as it follows the Bardo National Museum attack, demonstrates the persistence of the forces of terror in trying to damage Tu­nisia’s image, destroy its tourist industry and harm its visitors.
Following an attempt to attack hotels in Sousse on October 30, 2013, it was crucial to correctly interpret the message: Terror­ism stalks Tunisian cities, tourist resorts and Sousse in particular. Accordingly, it was imperative to work out the appropriate preven­tive strategies and reinforce secu­rity in the tourist sector. None of that was done.
Everyone is targeted by terror­ism. It is just a matter of stages. All citizens need to be concerned because the stage of the so-called black terrorism, the kind of terrorism that spares no one, is definitely coming.
Terrorists do not always abide by the conventional steps in managing terror and may change their pace. In the case of Tuni­sia, the terror sequence began by targeting the police and the army, then targeting politicians, then tourists. The final and most dangerous stage could be all out war against everybody.
It is imperative to prevent this last stage by any means.
It is still possible for the Tuni­sian state to protect the country, safeguard its people, seal the gaps and minimise damage.
To do that, it must create a national security agency, gather experts in comprehensive secu­rity and its multiple dimensions be they social, psychological, economic, cultural, religious, strategic and so on.
It must rely on modern tech­nologies and digital surveil­lance systems and provide the necessary equipment. It must strengthen its intelligence-gathering capabilities, increase public awareness of the danger and use the potentialities of civil society and mass media. It must coordinate with countries willing to provide intelligence, technical and logistic support.
But most of all, it should strengthen the pre-emptive dimension of the entire pro­gramme. The Sousse attack is very painful. As a Tunisian, I feel ashamed that a fellow Tunisian would kill visitors to this country. I feel also tremendously ashamed that not much was done to pre­vent such attacks.
The threat of terrorism against Tunisia is real. The aim is the eradication of a civil state. Tuni­sia is not immune from the kind of thing that is happening in Iraq and Syria.
What is more egregious is that many of those sowing destruc­tion in the Levant, Iraq and even Libya are Tunisians.
All this must be taken seri­ously and given due attention to prevent future catastrophes.
The threat represented by terrorism is not limited to the Middle East and North Africa but is a plague that will spread to the entire world if the international community does not unite to face up to these dark forces and dismantle the web of death and denial of life.