In the aftermath of yesterday’s terrorist attack in Manchester, British Prime Minister Theresa May has raised the nation’s threat level from “severe” to “critical,” the highest rating. The threat level hasn’t been set that high in Britain since 2007. Stating that another attack “may be imminent,” May ordered that the military be deployed to guard concerts, sports matches, and other public events.
The Prime Minister’s actions are predicated, she said, on the view that the latest attack — unlike, say, the mowing down of pedestrians by a car on a London bridge earlier this year — may well be the product of a network of terrorists. If so, it’s reasonable to fear that the network will produce more terrorism in the coming days.
There are grounds for believing that the Manchester attack is, indeed, the product of organized terrorists. For one thing, the method of the attack suggests a collaborative effort. As one terrorism expert puts it:
Getting a car or a knife is easy. Making a bomb that works and goes off when you want it to go off takes preparation and practice. And it usually involves other people.
Moreover, the suicide bomber, Salman Abedi, traveled frequently between Libya and England, according to a family friend. ISIS has become quite active in Libya. This suggests that Abedi may have received training by ISIS. If so, it’s reasonable to suspect that he is part of an ISIS network of indeterminate size operating in England.
For what it’s worth, ISIS has claimed “credit” for the Manchester attack. It said that “one of the soldiers of the caliphate was able to place an explosive device within a gathering of the crusaders in the city of Manchester.” Under different circumstances, describing teenagers, mostly teenage girls, at a pop concert as “crusaders” would be hilarious.
In any event, the upshot is that, in the words of one British police commissioner, “over the coming days as you go to a music venue, go shopping, travel to work or head off to the fantastic sporting events, you will see more officers, including armed officers.” The commissioner said “coming days.” I wonder, though, whether this is what the future will look like in France, Britain, and eventually maybe even here in the U.S.