Within the span of a week, terrorists have managed to assert their continued existence in defiance of the United States of America’s war against terror. A week that began with coordinated explosions in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia ended with almost simultaneous suicide attacks in Casablanca in Morocco. There are indications that the last attack may have caught Western intelligence by surprise, since the countries in Africa listed as possible terrorist targets by Britain last Thursday did not include Morocco. Considered one of the more liberal governments, Morocco has been troubled by extremist Islamic activity within its boundaries. Its municipal elections had to be delayed last month because of concerns about fundamentalism. Although the message of the Casablanca blasts is not yet completely clear, the devastation seems to have been aimed mainly at targets with Jewish connections. One was associated with Spain, which backed the war against Iraq. The real point, though, is the fact that terrorists, belonging to al Qaida or a local fundamentalist group, have once again penetrated where they were least expected. The global war against terrorism, in spite of its dispersal of terrorist bases in Afghanistan, the arrests of many al Qaida functionaries, the effort to dry up funding channels, the multiplied methods of tracing terrorist communications, is yet to find a way to be vigilant on all fronts, global and local. Anti-American and anti-Israeli feelings are now so widespread as to be common to almost all Islamic terrorist organizations. The umbrella al Qaida may be central to the war against terror, and may certainly be behind the Casablanca blasts, but it may not account for everything.
This can be inferred from a quick count. The number of innocent lives lost last week was not limited to the 34 in Riyadh and the 41 in Casablanca. In Chechnya, suicide bombers took 50 people with them, and two women, strapped with explosives, took 14. Eighteen small bomb blasts in Pakistan did not kill, but were targeted at Shell petrol stations and went off within an hour of one another in Karachi. A bomb, injuring four people, went off in a courtroom in Jibla in Yemen, where a terrorist had been condemned to death earlier for killing three US missionaries. Perhaps what is most difficult for governments to tackle is the terrorists’ collapsing of the symbolic with the real. As Morocco mourns its dead and loses its reputation of a safe destination for tourists, Western powers have to examine more carefully whether or not the war against terror needs more thoughtful strategies.