Tuesday, May 1, 2007
Counterterrorism In Budapest
By Philipp Sigrist
“International terrorism is a growing problem in our world today. We need to learn how to fight it”- this was the slogan at the first conference of the International Anti Terrorism Association (I.A.A) that was held in the Art Palace of Budapest on the third of March 2006. Eight experts in the field held the six hours conference for the stated purpose of discussing terrorism and its various side effects.
International terrorism has become a growing concern in today’s world. It has attracted the attention of many different organizations and prompted the creation of many others, including the International Antiterrorist Association (I.A.A), which was formed in Hungary in June of 2006, which recently hosted a six-hour conference in Budapest. The eight speakers – which included a Hungarian army general and an Police expert on explosives - provided insights on the issues surrounding and giving birth to terrorism, and on the sophistication and reach achieved by today’s terrorists.
General Szabo was the first speaker to the podium. His speech concerned largely international security and its challenges. He pointed out various threats and how they can be solved.
First, he said, the dangers today are more complicated than before, specifying that in today’s world of globalization previous dangers are even more dangerous because of technological development. Local, National, and International problems, he said, are all connected with each other, and an increasing gap between rich and poor countries raises the danger of organized crime and terrorism in developing countries.
“International terrorism is so powerful,” said the general, “that it influences relations between nations. The sobering disadvantage of globalization is that it is easily abused, especially economically. After the fall of communism, criminal organizations grew rapidly throughout the eastern block. This resulted in Hungary becoming a drug transit country. Corruption often occurs in changing political systems. Populations grow older and pensions come under threat. Flooding and other natural catastrophes compound these difficulties. How can these problems be solved? First of all more information is needed. Organizations must function more efficiently and international problems will find international solutions. But most importantly we have to understand the way terrorists think, get to know their philosophies, structures, financial assets, as well as their goals. To understand the way they endanger can be treated like a science.”
The general concluded by saying that any kind of problem can be easily challenged if it is tackled as early as possible. To this end, he advocated avoidance rather than confrontation, assuring his audience that the necessary counterterrorism organizations will be formed in the near future.
The second speaker emphasized attacks conducted with explosives. Unlike the general, he took the view that terrorism is an ongoing war, rather than a problem to be addressed and prevented.
The number of suicide bombers, he said, has grown dramatically in recent years. He specifically stated several places where attacks had been carried out and described the results of these attacks. One example he gave was a bomb attack in Tunisia specifically aimed at tourists in order to destabilize the country. Interestingly, attackers often manage to penetrate high security zones such as in Saudi-Arabia, Iraq and Israel, he said, adding that whatever security protection there is, attackers often manage to break through checkpoints and other barriers.
“The Madrid bombing showed that attacks have become very well organized,” he said, “The bombings did not only become more sophisticated but also more ruthless. During the Bezlan siege for example, terrorists did not stop from killing children. Terrorism is constantly evolving technologically, monetarily as well as in popularity. It began with simple bombs, but today terrorists can be in possession of dirty bombs such as chlorine or even nuclear waste bombs. But the biggest fear is that one day that terrorists might have access to a working nuclear bomb.”
A speaker from the police raised issues relating to crisis management in the case of an emergency. He used a recent local event as example, the October 6 riots in Budapest.
“Theoretically it seemed perfectly manageable and controllable,” he said “but in practice everything turned out to be completely different.”
Since the police did not have much experience with riot control, it had to learned through trail and error. An attack on Hungary can result in similar failures, he added, since police forces are not experienced enough for such tasks, as they have never happened before.
The final speaker, the head of the I.A.A Tamas Lax ended the conference by summing up the various speeches and made one final conclusive statement. “The international community can fight terrorism if the necessary institutions and agencies efficiently work together with their governments, but the responsibility also lies within each individual”.