Australia and the world must prepare for “a wave” of solo terror attacks from “stupid young kids”, a terrorism expert has warned.
A lone gunman’s attack on the Canadian parliament and war memorial on Thursday will not be the last time web-connected jihadists around the globe obey a direct order from the Islamic State.
Global Terrorism Research Centre director Greg Barton told The New Daily the Canadian attack “certainly fits the pattern of what Islamic State has been calling for”, and that the world must brace itself for “a wave” of such attacks.
“We have to assume that this is the beginning of a wave of similar attacks around the world, including in Australia,” he said, with terror propaganda targeting “stupid young kids” directly in their calls to violence.
In a video tirade this week, Sydney teenager Abdullah Elmir, 17, threatened “every tyrant” in Australia and the world, singling out Prime Minister Tony Abbott and US President Barack Obama.
Commenters on The New Daily website described Elmir as a ‘delinquent’, a ‘stupid kid’, a ‘stupid little twerp’, a ‘mongrel’, ‘insane’, ‘an out of control beast’, and a ‘half-witted moron’.
On September 23, 18-year-old Melbourne man Numan Haider was shot dead after attacking two police officers with a knife in an apparent terror-related attack.
‘Stupid young kids’
Professor Barton described Elmir as “a stupid young kid saying stupid things” who had been carefully manipulated in order to “reach out and impress other vulnerable young people and young men”.
Technology, in the form of slick propaganda on the internet, will “accelerate, facilitate and amplify” lone wolf attacks and the indoctrination of young men like Elmir.
In the propaganda video that seems to be acting as the spark for these attacks, the Islamic State told its members: “Do not consult with anyone and do not seek anyone’s advice.”
This autonomy is exactly what makes solo attacks so effective, another expert has said.
US terrorism expert Jeffrey Simon wrote in Foreign Policy last year that lone attackers are “dangerous” because of “their ability to think outside the box”.
“Lone wolves are free to act upon any scenario they can dream up. This freedom has resulted in some of the most imaginative terrorist attacks in history,” Mr Simon wrote.
Ottawa in lockdown
The Canadian attacker, identified in the media as 32-year-old Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, killed a soldier guarding a war memorial in the Canadian capital before being shot dead in the halls of the parliament. He was considered a “high risk” suspect whose passport had been confiscated to prevent him fighting abroad.
In September, the Islamic State issued a video message ordering its minions to launch attacks of exactly this type around the world.
The video singled out four nationalities – Americans, French, Australians and Canadians – and specifically called for the killing of soldiers, who it said are “patrons of the tyrants”.
“[S]laughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car,” the video commanded.
On Monday, another alleged Islamic State recruit, Martin Couture-Rouleau, 25, ran over two soldiers in Canada, killing one of them, before being shot dead by police as he emerged from his wrecked car wielding a knife.
Australian National University terrorism expert Dr Clarke Jones said the video’s blanket approval for a wide range of solo attacks means there are now “no holds barred”.
“It doesn’t take much capability to grab a high-powered rifle, if you can get hold of one, and get to wherever you can get and take out whatever you can take out. Whether it be a knife, whether it be a rifle, they are easy things that less organised individuals [can do],” Dr Jones said.
Young men like Elmir are “not crazies”, Dr Clarke said, but “in a vulnerable state and then they are being grabbed”.
Iraq bombing intensifies
The attack on the Canadian parliament came as Canadian jets joined the US-led bombing campaign against Islamist militants in Iraq.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper pledged not to waver, saying Canada would not be “intimidated” and would bolster its efforts to combat “terrorist” groups abroad.
Speaking at the start of question time on Thursday, Prime Minister Abbott said the attack is also an affront to Australia’s parliament.
“We feel Canada’s shock, pain and anger,” he said.
“An attack on their parliament is an affront to this parliament too.”
Mr Abbott said Australia stood “shoulder to shoulder with our Canadian comrades in defiance and resolution”.