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Pandemic Terrorism (3rd Series)

A Toss Coin COVID-19 Aftermath

By: Emerjhon D. Hernandez | LEAPS Academy Philippines

PG Diploma in Terrorism Studies

May 2020 Edition

The focal point on the different positions of the COVID-19 pandemic has narrowed the globe. The international community seems to be compressed having an eye on the ball on the wide-spreading disease producing a speedy and continuous increase of mortality. While the center point is the response in overcoming the crisis, efforts from several States have also been established to determine the root cause of the disease. Questions have been arising if the coronavirus was naturally acquired or laboratory driven. Others wanted to explore the possibility of intent to develop and spread the virus for depopulation. Some are eyeing on it as well-planned strategy of a certain State to destroy economies of others in achieving hegemony. Some are also inclined considering it as a terroristic course of action.

Studying where the virus came from or why it exists now has a great significance. But the present response is much more important not only in handling the pandemic but also in addressing its surrounding effects in order to avoid future occurrences of other crises brought by it, particularly terroristic events.

Issues on the Origin of Coronavirus

Scrutinizing the origin of COVID-19, many studies came up with only two contradicting results. One has closed that the coronavirus disease is a product of natural evolution as held by its likelihood and connection with the first known severe illness caused by a coronavirus that emerged with the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic in China and the second outbreak that started out in 2012 in Saudi Arabia with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). But theories also existed proposing that the virus was a laboratory driven and engineered. This is much more becoming an interest of research since China, the origin country of the virus, reported to have shown dishonesty in providing the figures of infected individuals in their territory and hampered the circulation of some reports that might have been necessary for World Health Organization’s global response.

On discussing rumors to depopulate and to destroy economies, speculations have also passed on around the world that the virus was applied as a biological weapon. One position of the story insisted that this was broached by the US to depopulate China while the other side hypothesized that it was China’s action to put down the economic systems of the states in the Western world, particularly that of the US. Both issues have no evidence to date to believe in.

While no research has thus far been generally admitted, the factor that the virus was a weapon of mass destruction used by terrorist groups has seemed to be not involved into account. But, terrorism should not be put aside in the present state of affairs. Experts from the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR), a think tank within the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) in Singapore, reported that terrorists have exploited the coronavirus pandemic to spread their ideology.

Despite the pandemic, terrorists are trying to take use the ensuing chaos to their welfare. In fact, with so many people home and on the internet all day, jihadist groups see this as a chance for recruitment. It might potentially increase the chances of radicalization as more people pass time on social media at home looking for answers amid uncertainties, exposing themselves to terrorist propaganda. If this could bring success to the extremist, then terrorism, not the present pandemic might wreak havoc around the world.

COVID-19 and Terrorism

Terrorism factors are at crucial to be considered today. With governments, military and intelligence agencies allocating massive amounts of resources to the defeat of coronavirus, there is some concern that they could drop the ball regarding terrorist threats. The effect of COVID -19 is like a wound in which the external damaged part is the only visible. Government forces across the globe should provide effort to address the other side effects of this crisis. If it happens to be hoax, that the virus was used as a bioweapon, then terrorist groups to advantage of the situation to produce their greatest weapon in the future.

There are some reports announcing that ISIS has called for more attacks in the West during the pandemic, telling followers this is a good chance to “regroup and plan new operations”. While confronting the pandemic, the US State Department explained that the state is considering steps to defend against the risk posed by ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and other terrorist groups. Despite encouraging allies to overwhelm terrorism and having cooperation to the greatest extent possible in the current environment, it remains inevitable to have difficulties in operating in the prevailing conditions. Though terrorists are too susceptible to contagious disease, they are considering that efforts against them would give way as governments might not desire to deploy troops into faraway lands affected by the virus.

Considering suicide bombing as one of the tactics employed by the terrorist groups to produce terror, COVID-19 pandemic could also be employed as a tool by them. Stories are already spreading that some infected individuals are deliberately coughing on some others to further propagate the disease. In the United States, coughing attacks may be prosecuted as an act of terrorism. Two people in the US have been charged with terrorism offenses after claiming they were intentionally trying to spread COVID-19. In the United Kingdom, a man was recently jailed for coughing on police, stating that he hoped to infect them with the virus so that they would pass it on to their children.

Two Pronged Principles

Mix and Match – Aside from health concerns in the present global situation, security forces from different States around the world must lend the same amount of their attention to other aspects of security, particularly to the threats of violent extremism. Prioritizing one aspect over the others will pave the way for more vulnerabilities since bad elements could use such “others” as chances to strike. It is known to us that in terrorism, taking advantage of the opportunities is the name of the game. During this this time of pandemic, collecting and mixing different information on aspects of security provides us to discover possible match for what could be done today and tomorrow by terrorist groups.

Mold and Bold – Despite the stress of the pandemic that stretches the global community to an extreme damaging degree, nations must display an indestructible image to the terrorist groups. If the latter perceives counter-terrorism units as more molded by the difficulties and bolder than before, it would bring a reduction of confidence and desire for them to perpetrate terroristic moves. This would be true if resilient and progressive efforts in combating terrorism are widely presented. Continuous international and domestic conventions, training, and seminars coupled with quick response in arresting and prosecuting violators of anti-terror laws of different countries, are some of the major contributing factors. In other words, if the global community is much more responsive to the threats of terrorism while enduring a battle for another crisis, prevention would still prevail.

It is imperative to anticipate future occurrences of different nature and embrace security. When the world puts smaller and limited attention on the pandemic, the riskier it becomes, the greater the exposure to terrorism. Assuming that the pandemic ends soon, another will likely to happen. When security forces are be less prepared, a greater danger awaits, especially when terror groups are involved.

The aftermath might be something like a toss coin. Flipping the coin would be a representation of uncertain future preparedness due to disregarding and mishandling of terrorism threats in times of the pandemic. If the coin lands with heads, counter-terrorism might still be effective. If it lands with tails, terrorism might be more than the world’s effort against them.


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