Managing the risks after Sousse
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.