Friday 22 March 2019

Declan Power: 'The question we must ask is who will gain most from this attack?'

 

'The ability to plan and co-ordinate an event that included three target areas, the selection of strategically important transport hubs, and the effect of using Irish postage stamps indicate strategic awareness of a high level and not erratic thinking.' Photo: PA
'The ability to plan and co-ordinate an event that included three target areas, the selection of strategically important transport hubs, and the effect of using Irish postage stamps indicate strategic awareness of a high level and not erratic thinking.' Photo: PA

Declan Power

The important question investigators are asking in the aftermath of the recent London explosive incidents is who gains from this? In any type of analysis of this situation it must start from that point and roll backwards. For those of us with experience of containing militant republican violence in the past, the events in London seem nearly too well packaged.

Firstly, it is acknowledged among security sources on both sides of the Irish Sea that the devices and their deployment do not follow the modus operandi (MO) of either dissident republican groups, such as the New IRA, or Islamic extremists.

Both entities have one thing in common in their past operational postures, the desire to project strength and ability to claim lives. The events in London do neither.

The ability to plan and co-ordinate an event that included three target areas, the selection of strategically important transport hubs, and the effect of using Irish postage stamps indicate strategic awareness of a high level and not erratic thinking.

On the face of it, the devices were simply crude incendiaries or basic detonators without explosive material, incapable of doing serious damage. In the recent past Islamic militants had been using acetone-based explosives. This creates a highly volatile and lethal device which can produce maximum chaos and casualties.

Our own dissident terrorists have been at pains to show us how their capacity for lethality has increased. The detonation of a car bomb in Derry is a long way up the ladder of technological capacity from the pipe bombs they had been producing.

In any event, the general MO of both dissident and Islamic terrorists has been to lay claim to their activities, following the event with either a published or televised statement to the general public.

One thing we can be sure of, however, is that, whoever conceived and executed this event, they got a lot of attention.

The study of motive, and who gains what, is as much important, maybe more so, than simply concentrating on the construction of these devices and the fact they seemed to come from Ireland.

International bomb disposal expert Lt Col Ray Lane (retired) managed to significantly reduce the amount of deaths during his tour of duty as a chief adviser with the International Security and Assistance Force in Afghanistan. He did this by focusing less on the devices and more on the motivations and culture of those making them.

The answer to the London puzzle lies in who has the most to gain from rebirthing the ghoul of Irish terrorism in the minds of the British public. And who has the most to lose? A question our Taoiseach might also ponder in this matter.

Declan Power is a former career soldier and independent security and defence analyst. He currently leads the Terrorism and International Security course at City Colleges in Dublin

Irish Independent

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