Strategic Intelligence Counter Terrorism Unit investigates why schools, colleges, and Universities have become ideal soft targets for Al-Qaeda’s branches besides other designated terror groups.
David Goldman, lead researcher, reviews 2 mass casualty attacks targeting learning institutions. The attacks happened in holiday months and within a span of 4 months, confirming a bias of sequencing and shared ideological prism.
On Tuesday, December 16 2014, the Al-Qaeda alien terrorist group Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) carried out a suicide bombing and armed assault at the Army Public School in Peshawar, Pakistan. More than 140 people were killed in the attack, most of them children, and more than 100 others were injured.
On 2 April 2015, gunmen stormed the Garissa University College in Garissa, Kenya, killing 148 people, and injuring 79.
To provide context for the attack, this report describes historical patterns of terrorist attacks
targeting educational institutions, based on data from the East African Counter Terrorism Database (Ref above 2 terror events).
According to Goldman Colleges and universities are iconic symbols of education. Garissa University is presumably the largest and most successful institution of higher learning in the North – Eastern Prefecture of Kenya, and most notably, lies in its middle, which is there heartland of Muslim faithful in Kenya. These aspects (geographical, religious, and political) made the campus a target of the Al-Qaeda branch in Somalia Harakat Al-Shabaab Mujahideen (HSM), whose ideological perspective about education is barbaric if not socio-religiously myopic.
Garissa University is also a symbol of democracy and a free society. The ethno-religious diversity of the students is a threat to the terrorist groups doctrines, particularly the intolerance of other religions and cultures. The cultural, religious, and ethnic diversity represent and preserve culture and diversity in many forms thus hurts the ideological perspective of the terrorists.
Goldman further found out from his literature review that terrorists attacks aim to impede education and independent thought, counter religious activity perceived as a threat to ideology and preserve the status quo.
He also found out that most campuses are open or have less security measures, making them ideal soft targets.
Cultural and political diversity of students in the university symbolises the country social political diversity.