There is a natural reluctance to link terror attacks, which should draw people of all persuasions together, to general elections, in which politicians and parties must differ – always robustly, sometimes fiercely. Yesterday’s murder of six innocent people by terrorists suddenly puts the knockabout business of electioneering into perspective: the last looks small as it pauses today in the shadow of murder. It seems wrong to put yesterday evening’s horrifying attack in London and Thursday’s poll across the whole country into the same sentence.
Or, rather, it would do, were it not that the London atrocity follows the Manchester horror. Less than a fortnight ago, teenage girls were targeted by a suicide bomber. Twenty-two people were killed and 160 injured. As we write, the identity of the three terrorists were who targeted London Bridge and Borough Market is not known. Nor is it clear whether or not they had support from a larger cell. But it is surely no coindence that two mass assaults on innocent people have been unleashed since this election campaign began. There may be more before it ends. Furthermore, Ramadan is happening – and it is a preferred season for Islamist terror attacks.
This is not to argue that ISIS or Al Qaeda want a particular outcome. But it is to claim that they want to destabilise our liberal democracy at one of the moments in its workings when it is most on public display. Islamist terrorists have form: in 2004, they targeted Spain’s general election, killing almost 200 people and injuring around 2000 in the Madrid train bombings. The atrocities were followed by Jose Maria Aznar and the Popular Party being swept out of government. The aim of terrorists is to create fear, panic, chaos – and the terror from which they take their name. The objective of Islamist ones is to do so as part of what they believe to be a holy war.
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