Necessary to debate how terrorist attacks are informed

Attackers aim to generate a psychological impact. For that reason, giving them excessive coverage benefits them
Photo: Andy Rain/EFE
Jerónimo Andreu / Corresponsal
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ISIS success is based on its victorious image, which has made it attractive to people unhappy with their societies of origin. That is what Carola García-Calvo, a specialist in global terrorism and processes of jihadist radicalization in the Real Instituto Elcano, states in an interview with EL UNIVERSAL.


What can be done in Europe to stop being the target of jihadism?

The onslaughts are sustained in two factor. First, the massive jihadist recruitment in the continent. Second, the organization's change of strategies: now that it is losing their caliphate in the Near East, it encourages young people to commit terrorist attacks in their countries of origin.


How are those changes of strategies devised?

A basis for the Islamic State's propagandist success lies in its image of success. In the face of losing their territories because of the international offensives in Syria and Irak, the propaganda agencies of the group, like the Dabiq magazine, try to soften that weak image by changing its objective. They promote damaging the enemy in their own territory, attacking soft targets, using any type of domestic weapons, like knives, or ramming big vehicles into a multitude. They even propose locations for the attack: markets, celebrations or big sports events.


In this war of messages against jihadist propaganda, Europe and the mass media react properly to the offensives?

The terrorist attacks against civilians aim to create a psychological impact, rather than a physical one. That feeling of wanting to change your way of life in order to avoid danger is the type of response that terrorism is looking for. Terrorism without communication would not exist and a debate should be opened about how to inform the attacks. We have to make population resilient.


After the Manchester attack, the United Kingdom raised the threat level to “critical,” are those based or alarmist decisions?

They are nos alarmist because they are made taking into account hard data and recommendations from experts, like the COBRA (Cabinet Office Briefing Room A) Committee in the United Kingdom. If the alert level is raised, it is because an aggression can be part of a larger conspiracy. However, it is true that sometimes, the governments want a dramatic impact to show their people that they are safe and that further aggressions will not be tolerated.


Salam Abedi, the Manchester assailer, had Libyan parents. This type of attacks criminalize refugees and foreigners?

ISIS aims to deepen social division, but we have to think the problem the other way. Most of the individuals which perpetrate the aggressions were born in Europe and have been socialized in Europe. They are young people who do not feel attracted to their society's projects or do not have opportunities, so we have to offer them a counter-narrative: a project with content. It is also important to act against the creation of ghettos and parallel societies.


Why are some people radicalized while others are not? In the case of Abedi, his friendship with Raphael Hostey, one of the main jihadist recruiters, was highlighted

There are many factors, but closeness with a radicalizer agent has destabilizing effects. A charismatic character can manage to radicalize many people around him; and if among the young person's acquaintances there is someone of confidence who is radicalized, like a brother or a friend, it can spread easily.


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