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Last night’s terrorist attack in Manchester, England exhibited all of the traits of a well planned terrorist attack. At least 22 people lost their lives and 59 were injured. Manchester is one of the highest risk cities in the United Kingdom for terrorism and the entire UK is currently under a severe threat level which means an attack is likely.

The explosion took place at a large public venue, the Manchester Arena. It represents a perfect soft target with large crowd capacity and multiple avenues of access. The attack came 30 hours after President Donald Trump called for Arab cooperation and unity in fighting terrorism.

This latest mass casualty attack is even more troubling in that the target was a concert venue full of young people, primarily girls.  The suicide bomber chose to detonate his device outside of the security zone in a lobby area near a ticket counter where he would not have been detected by security screening. Forensics are underway to determine the nature of the explosion, where it originated, who the bomber was and who he is connected to.  Early indications are that it was a sophisticated device, and ISIS has claimed responsibility; however, that has not been verified.

 Public spaces are particularly susceptible in this age of terrorism.  Popular venues, where people gather during peak times or for special occasions, raise the risk of one becoming a victim of terrorism.  The Manchester Arena unfortunately fit all of the hallmarks of a target rich environment.  During the summer months when major European and U.S. cities see an increase in tourism, the environment for conducting further terrorist attacks will become greater.  Travelers need to be aware and vigilant about the threat potential and avoid popular public attractions during peak times such as social gathering places, eating areas, night spots and entertainment venues.  We know that terrorists will continue to target transportation hubs such as airports, train stations and subways.  Avoiding these, especially trains and subways, during rush hour times will significantly reduce the risk of becoming a victim of terrorism.

Although we don’t know the background of the person involved in the Manchester suicide bombing, in recent years, some British, European and even U.S. citizens have became radicalized through in- country affiliations or through the proliferation of social media.  Many left their countries to get trained to fight for Afghanistan or for ISIS in Syria and Iraq and some have returned.  Many of these individuals are tracked by counter-terrorism agencies, but all are not.  Success breeds repetition, and the threat for these kinds of attacks in Europe as well as in the United States will continue to increase.  Read More