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Extremism: It Isn't Just Islamists

Nearly ten years after the attacks on the World Trade Center, the failed car bombing in Times Square has reminded Americans that terrorism is still a very real threat. It comes as little surprise to an American public used to Islamic terrorism that Faisal Shahzad is believed to have received training from terror groups in Pakistan. Shahzad lived in the US for more than 10 years, but the influences and planning behind the attack are primarily foreign in character. With all the attention focused on Islamic foreign terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and Pakistan's Tehrik-i-Taliban, little is said about another threat that is largely invisible and just as real: home-grown domestic terrorism. 

Two recent incidents confirm the reality of the threat. In February, Joe Stack penned an anti-government diatribe before flying a small plane into IRS offices in Austin, Texas. Little more than a month later, nine members of the Christian extremist group "Hutaree" were arrested in several mid-west states in connection to a plot to target and kill federal law enforcement agents

Of course domestic terrorism isn't new, and it isn't confined to the extreme right. In the 1960s and 70s, leftist organizations like the Symbionese Liberation Army and the Weather Underground targeted financial and government institutions in attacks on capitalism. By the 1980s attacks by leftist domestic terror groups had waned. In the 90s, extremists on the right took their place. These groups surged with the type of anti-government rhetoric that fueled Timothy McVeigh's bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building. Some experts believe the election of the first black president and uncertain economic times have spurred far-right extremist groups to a level of activity unseen since the early 1990s.  

So if there is a dangerous up-swing in domestic militias and terror groups, why has the media been largely silent on the issue? Why isn't there as large of a concern about the next Oklahoma City bombing as there is for the next 9/11? Perhaps it's easier to rationalize that foreigners would try to hurt us, but it's harder to come to terms with the fact that there are American-born citizens who want to do the same. Many were surprised to find out that Islamic radical Faisal Shahzad had lived a fairly typical American life for years before he turned to extreme violence. Then again, so did Timothy McVeigh

While the threat from Islamic extremism is the most reported (and also, very real) threat, it's important that Americans realize that extremist violence doesn't just come from one religion or political ideology. Whether extremists are Islamic or Christian, radical or reactionary isn't as important as the threat itself - anything taken to the extreme can be deadly.

 
 

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War and Fallout: What is Behind the Pakistan Violence?

In the latest Global Pulse episode, Pakistan at War, host Erin Coker asks who is to blame for the violence in Pakistan. Watch the episode and share your thoughts below!

Wednesday's market bombing in Peshawar capped off a particularly deadly month in Pakistan amidst a shored up military campaign in the country's western region of Waziristan.  More than 100 people died in Wednesday's attack, many of them women and children.

Global media largely attribute the recent bloodshed to the Pakistani Taliban's attempt to destabilize the government in retaliation for recent military efforts to drive extremists from the country's volatile North-West Frontier Province.

However, militant violence in Pakistan has been on the rise long before the government launched its new offensive. According to the terrorism database, South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), terrorist violence killed 2,155 civilians in 2008, compared to 140 in 2003. Similarly, nearly 1800 civilians have been killed in the first 10 months of 2009, exceeding the total number of civilian deaths from 2003 to 2006, according to the SATP.

Some international and media experts note that the Pakistani Taliban has absorbed Punjabi militants and other separatist groups, resulting in a new and dangerous band of extremists. These militants are further bolstered by al-Qaeda members who have taken refuge in the country's tribal areas near the Afghan border. This new incarnation of militants, notes the Council on Foreign Relations' Jayshree Bajoria, is "more violent and less conducive to political solutions than their predecessors."

In a Foreign Policy editorial, the Washington, DC-based Atlantic Council attributes Pakistan's inability to contain the growing extremist threat to a lack of modern military might and calls on the U.S. to furnish Pakistan with adequate weaponry to defeat the Taliban. Failure to do so, argues Shuja Nawaz, will result in continued terror strikes on the public. 

However, Pakistani blogger Riaz Haq blames the violence not on a lack of American weapons, but on government intelligence failures. "The best way to stop the increasing carnage on the streets of Pakistan...is to stop the attacks well before they occur," writes Haq. "Unfortunately, however, the intelligence agencies which are supposed to frustrate the blood-thirsty attackers appear totally ineffective, even paralyzed."
   
While the exact cause of the surge in violence may be up for debate, the toll it is taking on Pakistani civilians is undeniable.

The renewed clashes between government forces and the Taliban in North-West Frontier Province have resulted in a second wave of refugees fleeing the fighting, adding strain to already-crowded camps. According to the U.N., fighting in South Waziristan has forced an estimated 139,400 people from their homes [PDF link] and could displace thousands more.

The latest bombing in Peshawar has also disrupted the lives of Pakistan's urban residents. "The people want to go back to their mundane routines," writes Murtava Razvi in a Dawn editorial. "Youngsters want to go out to the parks, to the beach, to bowl, to eat out. Women want to go shopping unescorted, and men want to go about their daily chores without worrying about families left at home. This isn’t happening anymore."

 

 
 

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State of Security

"A flashlight with an LED bulb for illumination or to signal for help; a hand-held water purifier in case the water isn’t potable; a portable radio; and a cellphone or a Blackberry with international service."

 

These are the essential items that the Association of Corporate Travel Executives advises business travelers to pack when they sojourn into global hot spots like post-attacks Mumbai. As The Practical Traveler reports for the New York Times, several guests trapped in the Taj hotel during last month's siege were able to relay word of their whereabouts to the Indian police via text message on a trusty mobile connection. Now, the international hotel industry is moving to reinforce guest security with stepped-up staff training and use of technology, like color-coded alerts at the Marriott line of hotels.

 

So who might stand to profit in the new South Asian security economy? The Wall Street Journal reports that the makers of door frame and hand-held metal detectors, high-speed armored sea vessels, smart cards, and providers of sniffer dogs and closed circuit televisions could be sitting pretty in the new year. Revenues from India's private security business alone could rise from 220 billion rupees this year to 500 billion rupees in 2012. Among those anxious to not miss out are security firms from the U.S., Europe, Japan, and South Korea, whose products are projected to enter India in large numbers in coming years.

 
 

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Mumbai: The Kashmir Connection

 

The Mumbai attacks took place within the context of a long struggle between India and Pakistan over Kashmir - an element often overlooked by US news reports. So our sources this week include Times Now, India; South Asia Newsline, India; Dawn TV, Pakistan; and Press TV, Iran.
 
- Global Pulse -

 

 

 
 

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Eye on South Asia

This week, Global Pulse will examine the roots of the Mumbai terror attacks in the long-running conflict between India and Pakistan over the territory of Kashmir.

 

As more details emerge from South Asia, we discover that the nine Mumbai gunmen were Pakistani men in their 20s with ties to the Lashkar-e-Taiba guerilla group, which Indian government officials claim has helped wage a proxy war for Pakistan in Kashmir.

 

But Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, writing in a New York Times Op-Ed yesterday, tries to shift the world's attention away from Kashmir and towards his country's border with Afghanistan, where he argues the true source of global terror lies. By focusing on the Pakistani army's fight against al-Qaeda, Zardari attempts to elicit sympathy for his government's role in combating global terror attacks.

 

Meanwhile in India this week, the ruling Congress Party won an unexpected victory in 3 of 5 state elections, including in Delhi. The results may mean that the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been unsuccessful in claiming the government was ill-prepared to prevent last month's attacks.

 
 

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