Wednesday, June 21, 2017

21-Jun-17: An explosion in a Belgian train station: Do the news agencies realize this was not someone trying to kill himself?

Brussels: The attacker (in the background) and Tuesday's
explosion [Image Source]
Belgium, which has more reason than most other parts of Europe to be deeply concerned about terror-minded Islamists, is trying today to make sense of an explosion in its most important train station yesterday (Tuesday).

Here's how the events were depicted by one of the world's most influential news packagers:
Belgian soldiers have shot a man suspected of being a would-be suicide bomber at Brussels Central Station, officials say. He was shot after reportedly setting off a small explosion and no-one else is believed to have been injured. Prosecutors later said the man had died. They are treating the incident as a terrorist attack. According to Belgian newspaper La Libre Belgique, quoting prosecutors, the man who was shot was wearing a rucksack and a bomb belt. He detonated a device when he attracted the attention of soldiers in the station, the paper says. ["Suspected suicide bomber shot at Brussels railway station", BBC, June 20, 2017]
They're careful, the BBC people. But careful readers will be left wondering about what isn't stated.
  • If the man was going to commit suicide, why in a public place? Could it be that suicide was not actually his goal? Was he actually a murderer? Or a murder-minded terrorist? If so, why confuse and mislead by saying he was committing suicide? He made himself into a human bomb and that is what we owe to ourselves and victims past and future to call him and those like him. We explain the thinking here: "30-Jun-15: We need to be calling them what they are: human bombs".
  • And by the way, the bomb's effect appears to have been enhanced by nails, making it "similar to the bombs used in the attacks at Brussels airport and on the city's metro that killed 32 people in March 2016." That's from Reuters mid-Wednesday morning (here). Those nails, in our view, are far more relevant and important to characterizing the killer than calling him "suicide bomber", a term we utterly abhor. They are put into bombs so as to cruelly rip apart the flesh of  the innocent victims. Our daughter was murdered by terrorists who attacked the patrons of a pizzeria in Jerusalem with a nail-and-shrapnel-enhanced bomb.
  • The Brussels killer caused a small explosion, and then "later" he died. Did the explosion do him in? Or was it the Belgian soldiers who, at some point in these presumably fast-moving events, opened fire and shot him? The BBC report doesn't say. But clearly once he was shot dead, no one else was going to be hurt by him. That's a very good thing.
  • The word "terrorist" gets into this BBC report only because the BBC was able to quote Belgian "prosecutors" who called it that. Does the BBC lack the discernment to be able to characterize terrorists as terrorists? No, of course not; it's self-imposed "know-nothing"-ness as a careful reading read of the politically-hyper-correct BBC "Editorial Guidelines: Language when Reporting Terrorism" shows. The BBC editors have far less difficulty or reluctance reaching conclusions on how to characterize a million and one other things; that's why we think of them as a news-reporting source.
This morning (Wednesday) there are additional details to ponder.

Numerous sources report that the fast-acting Belgians "neutralized" the attacker; it's a word that when Israel uses it (to mean killing or stopping an attacker in the course of a terror attack) attracts criticism of Israel.

The unnamed attacker, called "a Moroccan national who was not wanted for terror offences" [here] , is reported to have been yelling "Allahu Akbar" as he ran towards a soldier.

Reuters, around day-break today. reported that Belgium's counter-terrorism police are "probing the identity" of the man shot dead yesterday by "troops guarding a Brussels railway station after he set off explosives that failed to injure anyone":
  • "We consider this a terrorist attack," prosecutor Eric Van Der Sypt told reporters, declining comment on witness accounts that the man had shouted Islamist slogans before detonating what witnesses said were one or two devices in luggage...
  • The Belgian capital, home to the headquarters of Nato and the European Union, has been on high alert since a Brussels-based Islamic State cell organised the attack that killed 130 people in Paris in November 2015. Four months later, associates of those attackers killed 32 people in their home city. Since then, attacks in France, but also in Germany, Sweden and, most recently, in Britain, have been carried out in the name of the Syria-based Islamist militant group by other young men, many of them locals, raising fears of more violence in a city where almost a quarter of the population of 1.2 million are Muslim...
  • [S]moke pouring through Central Station and a shared awareness of Islamic State attacks in the city last year and more recently in Britain, France and elsewhere, sent evening commuters racing for cover...
  • Witnesses spoke of a man who shouted Islamist slogans, including "Allahu akbar" - God is greater - in Arabic, in an underground area of the station still busy with commuters making their way home and seemed to set off one or two small blasts...
  • Rail worker Nicolas Van Herrewegen told Reuters that he was heading downstairs toward the underground platforms that serve long-distance and suburban lines running under the city center. "There was a man shouting, and shouting and shouting," he said. "He was talking about the jihadists and all that and then at some point he shouted: 'Allahu akbar' and blew up the little suitcase he had next to him. People just took off."
  • ...As Prime Minister Charles Michel consulted his security advisers, the national alert was maintained at its second highest level. Michel, who convened a National Security Council meeting for 9 a.m. (0700 GMT) on Wednesday, tweeted his thanks to the security forces and railway staff for their professionalism and courage. Mainline trains were running through the station by the morning rush hour, but not stopping. The adjacent metro station was open as normal, the transport authorities said. ["Belgium investigates station bomber fatally shot by soldiers", Reuters, June 21, 2017]
We agree with Belgium's prime minister: it's good that his country's security personnel opened fire promptly and, acting with "professionalism and courage", killed the man and neutralized the immediate danger.

We hope Israeli diplomats remind Mr Michel of his welcome plain-spokenness the next time Belgium joins with Israel's critics in absurdly - cheaply - accusing the IDF and Israel's other security forces of "extra-judicial execution" and "disproportionate force". The Belgians don't think they engaged in those problematic behaviours yesterday, and they're right. And so is Israel when its security people put the highest immediate priority on stopping an attacker in the shortest time before he achieves his barbaric goal.

Which, to remind ourselves, is never suicide.

The politically-inspired squeamishness of the BBC notwithstanding, everyone with brains in her head understands that attackers like yesterday's in the Brussels train station and Monday's would-be bomber on Paris' Champs-Elysees (killed when he rammed his car, filled with explosive and weapons, into a French police convoy - no innocent people were injured) are motivated by religious doctrine.

And whether they are genuine lone wolves or working in packs, the inspiration, incitement and encouragement for acts of terror in the most-public places possible overwhelmingly comes from Islamic preachers.

Whether this means terrorism does or does not have something to do with Islam is a non-trivial question if we seriously want to defeat the savages and the dangers they pose to our children and our societies. We're convinced the answer is obvious for anyone thinking outside the blinkers of political correctness about those threats.

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