Today's brutal attack on a British soldier has shocked the UK - the British Government have stated their belief that this is a terrorist attack. This suggestion is supported by footage indicating an Islamist extremist political motivation may have been involved. The UK Government has now operated its crisis response team - COBRA.
At present, the UK's intelligence/security agencies will be engaged in a three fold effort. First, to establish whether the individuals who committed this attack are acting alone or as part of a broader cell/operation. Second, to quickly gather accurate information on the detained suspects - who they are, their nationality, known affiliations etc. Third, to assist the British Government and Metropolitan Police's Counter Terrorism Command in the development and implementation of a responsive security plan. (The US Government will also be providing support). The UK is very effective at domestic counter-terrorism.
Though much is still unknown, I have a couple of early observations.
For a start, it's deeply troubling that armed police apparently took so long to respond (ITV News/BBC News report 20 minutes). Regardless of the precise time, the suspects appear to have wandered around unchallenged for a prolonged period. Had they desired to harm more individuals, they would likely have been able to do so.
More important is the horrific nature of the attack. In the beheading of an unarmed solider, we once again have a point of notice for all those who doubt the sustaining brutality of Sunni Islamist extremists. These are not soldiers of resistance, they are murderers. They believe that their perverse interpretation of God's will excuses any act - however terrible. By murdering children, or marathon runners, or commuters, or teenagers, or women, or military personnel, they seek to scare the world into submission.
Our response must be the opposite - to meet these killers with intelligent force and unwavering resolve.
For links to my previous writings/media on terrorism - click here.