Terrorism during Covid-19 Pandemic

As Reported in: At-Tahalof (Vol. 4), August 2020

IMCTC organized its seventh monthly symposium, on Monday, July 20, 2020, titled: (The Status of Terrorism at Times of Crises and Calamities- Case of Covid-19 Pandemic) via video conference at its headquarters’ auditorium. The speakers at the event included; counselor Abdul Fattah Suleiman, from Egypt, Maj. Gen. Dr. Talal M. Bani Melhim, from Jordon and Dr. Sonny Zulhuda, from Indonesia. Dr. Fayez A. Al-Shehri, Saudi Arabia, moderated the session. IMCTC Deputy Secretary-General, Maj. Gen. Abdullah bin Saleh Al-Zughebi, attended the symposium along with member countries’ delegates.

Counselor Abdul Fattah Suleiman highlighted the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on terrorist group’s activities as well as major counterterrorism operations in the MENA region. While Maj. Gen. Dr. Talal discussed the lockdown restrictions which most countries imposed and how the prevalence of international disagreements regarding assigning the responsibility of spreading the Coronavirus pandemic had an impact on counterterrorism efforts. The third speaker; Dr. Zulhuda, proposed strategies for countering terrorism threats in light of COVID-19 consequences and its depletion of the financial resources in most affected countries.

Dr. Sonny Zulhuda, counterterrorism expert and Professor at the International Islamic University in Malaysia, discussed a set of counterterrorism strategies in light of the repercussions of COVID-19 pandemic, the associated financial depletion and the impact on health risks (14 million cases and 597,583 deaths in 214 countries and territories since December, according to WHO statistics), economic risks (complete closure of institutions and businesses) and social risks (changing work, education and shopping patterns).

Dr. Sonny also remarked that the terrorists would build their “business model” on exploiting imbalances and vulnerabilities, and there is no doubt that COVID-19 pandemic has created various weaknesses and challenges that would require strategic solutions, including leadership, governance, cooperation and trust. Leadership is hindered by the people being helpless when it comes to crisis management; leaders do need a correct view of how events behave and how potential political conflicts need to be well balanced. Key systems and infrastructures are at risk during a pandemic, which all require robust and meticulous governance. Simply put, facing such a pandemic requires the cooperation of a number of ministries and institutions to work in concert while setting the tone.

The lack of resources makes people slip into fierce competitions; this means the existing resources need to be wisely reconstituted to better ad-dress both terrorism and pandemics under a successful management of security and public health. Again, Dr. Sonny remarked that terrorists are well aware of how to take full advantage of cyber risks; COVID-19 pandemic has created an information-hungry community that works from home, using applications and software programs not subject to protection and security support. People tend to collect information about the rampant pandemic, e-shopping, e-conferencing and e-learning on a large scale without following strict security and privacy measures or policies. As such, they open up Pandora’s Box for terrorists to sneak into such worlds.

Against a backdrop of existing and potential threats, it was necessary to rethink the concept of the critical national infrastructure to better accommodate such dire threats and cyberterrorism during COVID-19 pandemic coupled with all manifestations of terrorism. Dr. Sonny provided key features of counterterrorism when epidemics spread, including but not limited to checking and addressing all security vulnerabilities and the fatigue caused to people, the employment of big data and the information technology system, along with risk assessment in light of the interactions between terrorism risks and public health risks.

Source: At-Tahalof (IMCTC Quarterly Magazine), Vol. 4, August 2020, at p. 43. Click here for the Magazine.

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