On the night of the May 22, a lone male suicide attacker detonated an explosive device in the foyer of the Manchester Arena after a concert by American pop singer Ariana Grande. The current estimate is that 22 people have lost their lives including an 8-year-old girl, with 59 injured, 12 of these wounded victims are under the age of 16. While specific details of this attack are not yet clear, such as details about whether this attacker was part of a wider network, until further information, Manchester is treating this as a terrorist attack and the Islamic State have claimed responsibility. It is important to note, of course, that the Islamic State’s claim is by no means factual since the Islamic State claims responsibility for nearly all attacks or incidents.
However, what is know for certainty by the very nature of the attack, is that this attacker targeted teenagers and children, specifically young girls. In the major terror attacks in the past, these were carried out against adult civilians, and any teenagers or children killed or hurt by the attack were collateral damage. The reason that this demographic was targeted was in order to shock and disgust a wider global audience, as these victims were used by this attacker as a means of spreading his message even further and trying to gain concessions from the government. While this message is unknown at the present moment, it is crucial to examine whether this is a new level of atrocity that can be expected from future terrorist attacks. Similar targeting was shown by the 2015 Bataclan theatre massacre in Paris, as these new attacks were against civilians enjoying ordinary Western life and culture. This is a way for these terrorists to impose their tyranny upon innocent victims, by making them second-guess everyday activities and encouraging people to fear one another.
What does this mean for the future and the psyche of the new generation? In a world where children are now seen as targets that can be used as tools for terrorists to achieve their aims, it appears that truly nobody is safe from this scourge. It also means that terrorists no longer have a consideration for innocence or the legitimacy of their targeting. I argue that this target was chosen as this attacker is hoping that by going even further than previous terrorists he will force the British government to lash out, which will, in turn, give credence and proof to ISIS ideology that there is a war between the West and Islam. Instead, this attack can be seen as a wake-up call to the British government: rather than breaking with the international and European community, unity is needed now more than ever to tackle this global threat, as information sharing is the single greatest weapon that can be used against future attackers.
A common question asked by many after every terrorist attack is: when will this end?
It appears that this is not the end, it is only the beginning of an increase in the stakes for those with the duty to defend innocent citizens domestically and globally. A quote by the IRA encapsulates this sentiment, “you have to be lucky all the time, we only have to be lucky once.” The “War on Terrorism” is not a war that can ever be won by the West, it can be won by those attackers that succeed in their terrorist attacks. Instead for those working in the field of intelligence and security, the wins are not demonstrable, only losses such as those experienced in Manchester.