19 years after 9/11, Americans continue to fear foreign extremists

Friday, 2020-09-11 14:55:42
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A fiery blasts rocks the World Trade Centre during September 11, 2001, after being hit by two planes in New York City. Al Qaeda, the group behind the attacks, remain strong today, one expert said. (Photo: Reuters)
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According to an article by the Conversation.com, on a Tuesday morning in September 2001, the American experience with terrorism was fundamentally altered. Two thousand, nine hundred and ninety-six people were killed as the direct result of attacks in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania. Thousands more, including many first responders, later lost their lives to health complications from working at or being near Ground Zero.

Nineteen years later, Americans’ ideas of what terrorism is remain tied to that morning.

The 9/11 attacks were perpetrated by al-Qaida terrorists. They resulted in nearly 18 times more deaths than America’s second most devastating terrorist attack – the Oklahoma City bombing that occurred 15 years earlier. That intense loss of life has meant that the 9/11 attacks have come to symbolize terrorism for many Americans.

In the most sophisticated crime lab in North America, one of history's greatest forensic investigations continues to unfold.

After nearly twenty years, scientists are still identifying the remains of the victims of 9/11.

"There are people out there that still want answers. They still want results," said Mark Desire of the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

"It is very emotional," said Desire. "All these years later, the thank yous and the hugging and the crying. 18 years later, the commitment of this agency to make notifications is as great today, as it was in 2001."

Of the 2,753 confirmed deaths in New York City, 60% have been identified through DNA testing. Nearly 22,000 human remains were recovered but over 7,000 samples have yet to be identified.

Thanks to emerging technology, scientists have identified 152 samples just this year. Most of them, from victims who have already been identified.

But testing on two samples led to new identifications. It's those discoveries that keep them going, eighteen years after 9/11.

It's a painstaking process that can take up to three days. And now a new generation of scientists is testing the DNA profiles.

A file photo of fighters from Al Shabaab training in Somalia. The group has strong links to Al Qaeda. (AP)

According to 9news.com.au, terrorists behind 9/11 attacks 'stronger than ever' despite multi-trillion war on terror.

Nineteen years after the 9/11 attacks, terrorist cells such as Al Qaeda are "stronger than ever", an expert has warned.

Deakin University security analyst Greg Barton told nine.com.au that despite the coronavirus disruption, terrorism remains a lurking menace and one that is adept at changing to circumstances.

He said despite the US and its allies, including Australia, waging a US$6 trillion ($8 trillion) 'War on Terror' in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, they had suffered temporary setbacks.

"Research shows the underlying trend line is that groups such as Al Qaeda have grown steadily stronger over the past two decades.

But - like the virus - terrorist organisations were also adapting to changing conditions and spreading throughout the world.

'Franchises' - or offshoots - of Al Qaeda and Islamic State - are now active across the world including part of West Africa, the Horn of Africa, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and the Russian Caucus region.

US troops have already begun leaving Afghanistan and later this year less than 5000 soldiers are expected to still be there. (Photo: 9news.com.au)

But focusing solely on Islamist extremism groups like al-Qaida when investigating, researching and developing counterterrorism policies does not necessarily align with what the numbers tell us. Homegrown far-right extremism also poses a persistent and lethal threat to the lives and well-being of Americans. This risk is often underestimated because of the devastating impact of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Historically, the United States has been home to adherents of many types of extremist ideologies. Our 15 years of research shows the two current most prominent threats are motivated by Islamist extremism and far-right extremism.

To help assess these threats, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice have in the past funded our work with the Extremist Crime Database, collecting data on crimes committed by ideologically motivated extremists in the U.S. The analyses of that data are published in peer-viewed journals and on the website for the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism & Responses to Terrorism.

Between 1990 and 2019, the ECDB identified 47 events in the U.S. motivated by Islamist extremism that killed 154 people. When you include 9/11 as a singular event, those numbers jump dramatically to 48 homicide events and 3,150 people killed.

The database also identified 217 homicide events motivated by far-right extremism, with 345 killed. And when you include the Oklahoma City bombing, it rises to 218 homicide events and 513 killed.

The locations of violent extremist activity also differ by ideology. Our data show that between 1990 and 2019, most Islamist extremist attacks occurred in the American South (51%), and most far-right extremist attacks occurred in the West (36.7%). Both forms of violence were least likely to occur in the Midwest, with no incidents committed by Islamist extremists and 25 events committed by far-right extremists (11.5%).

The research has also identified violent Islamist extremist plots against 333 targets that were either foiled or failed between 2001 and 2019. Many of the same Islamist extremists are responsible for plotting against multiple targets simultaneously.

On average, 18 various sites in the United States are targeted every year, with civilians and military personnel ranking as the most likely to be targeted, and New York City and Washington D.C. ranking as the cities most likely to be targeted.

The events of 9/11 will continue to skew both our real and perceived risks of violent extremism in the United States. To focus solely on Islamist extremism is to ignore the number of murders perpetrated by the extreme far right and their place in a constantly changing threat environment. At the same time, to focus solely on far-right extremism is to ignore the extraordinary lethality of Islamist extremist attacks.

Some experts have even warned that there is potential for collaboration between these extremist movements. Both ideologies continue to pose real threats to all Americans.