Why global ‘terror database’ is the need of the hour
Both the attackers in Brussels were reportedly part of the US counterterrorism watch-list
In early 2013, I was detained by the police cell of an airport “somewhere” for 13 hours. Although my name was not in their “wanted” list, authorities informed me that my surname bears great similarity to someone wanted. Of course all my attempts to prove that I am not the person they were looking for failed. After all, the wanted man was classified as “terrorist."
I was released after it became clear that I was not the person they wanted. Although I missed my flight and had to wait at the airport until next afternoon, I was not that angry. I remained calm and understood the country’s security concerns. Or may be it was because of the coffee and tea served by a polite policemen.
The story, which had somehow disappeared from my memory, came back strongly following the deadly explosions that rocked Brussels recently. The two brothers who allegedly carried out these attacks were Ibrahim El Bakraoui, who blew himself up at the Brussels airport, and Khalid El Bakraoui, who carried out suicide bombing at the Maelbeek Metro station, near the European Union headquarters.
Interestingly, they were both said to be on a US counterterrorism watch-list before the November attacks in Paris. In other words, the brothers were not just two young men who were radicalized recently, and were difficult to monitor, but were already classified as potential terrorists. Yet they succeeded in carrying out attacks on two sensitive facilities inside a European capital, which is said to be the place where last November’s Paris carnage was plotted.
If the Belgian authorities were informed about those watch-listed by the US and other countries, they may not have let Ibrahim and Khalid El Bakraoui move around that freely. Brussels may have detained them or stopped them from moving in or around the capital. News reports also charged that Ibrahim El Bakraoui, 30, was expelled last year by Turkey and flagged as a suspected terrorist. If Brussels was aware of this, would he have been in a position to attack the airport?
The 28-member EU has been criticized for its inability to keep collective track of home-grown extremists and fighters returning from Syria or planning to go there. EU officials even described the Brussels and Paris attacks as “no surprise”. The EU’s established principles of democracy and the large influx of refugees are among the major reasons behind its swiftness to crack down on terror. Yet an international “terrorist database” could make a major difference in achieving this objective.
With the trans-border threat posed by terrorism, one wonders why one single international database of known terrorists haven’t been made and why more intelligence is not being shared to tackle terrorism. Apparently, each country has its own database and tracks possible extremists to protect itself from being the target of deadly attacks. Brussels attacks have really come as a surprise for world leaders who vowed to tackle terror collectively, collaboratively and inclusively.
With the threat posed by terrorism, one wonders why one single international database of terrorists haven’t been made and why more intelligence is not being shared to tackle the challengeRaed Omari
There is no disputing the fact that security breach is a possibility once in a while especially in the Middle East and nowadays in Europe, particularly if someone is determined to blow himself up. The Middle East, Europe, and the US – and may be also some other regions of the world – must be ready to face more small-scale terrorist attacks carried out for ideological, religious, social and economic reasons.
Yet, there is hope that international anti-terror efforts would ensure that no large-scale attacks, such as Brussels and Paris, do not happen again. As a security procedure, an international database of radical fighters returning from Syria must be built urgently and shared with countries around the world, especially those hosting refugees and receiving more on a daily basis.
As far as concerns over home-grown extremism is concerned, a society-based approach to tackle poverty, employment and marginalization would be of great help. A reporting tour on countering violent extremism, organized by the US Department of State in September 2105, made it clear to me how fruitful is it to engage and integrate underprivileged African Muslims into societies of Christian majorities using community-based partnerships with civic leaders.
In Jordan, I have witnessed how students, especially from Russia and Chechnya, at the University of Jordan, have been rewardingly engaged in daily seminars, lectures and brainstorming sessions by their “moderate” professors. It is their way to prevent radicalization of the young minds.
Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2