If there is one silver lining to the extremists’ slaughter in both Jakarta in January and Paris in November 2015, it would be this – the carnage could have been much worse.
The attacks at multiple locations in the City of Light left 130 dead. According to The Wall Street Journal, one of the suicide bombers attempted to enter France’s national football stadium, where thousands sat watching an international friendly match in the presence of French President Francois Hollande. Routine checks by security guards detected the explosive vest, and the attacker was denied entry. He then backed away and detonated the bomb, killing himself and one passer-by.
About two months later, blasts and gunshots near Jakarta’s Sarinah shopping centre shook the region. The terrorist strike took seven lives, including those of the attackers. But the death toll could have been higher. It is likely that the shooters were targeting the mall, according to an analyst quoted by The Guardian, but were halted by security guards and taken to the checkpoint, where they opened fire.
In both cases, routine security checks seem to have played a major role in capping the damage. This is noteworthy for Malaysia and the rest of Southeast Asia, which find themselves in the crosshair of extremists these days.
“The terrorist threat has shifted from hardened targets such as governments, police and military to soft marks such as the financial, economic and commercial targets,” says Andrin Raj, the Southeast Asia regional director for the International Association for Counter terrorism and Security Professionals (IACSP).
The denser the crowd, the more attractive the area is to extremists trying to make a deadly point. And, in Malaysia, few commercial centres are as packed with people as shopping malls. According to a survey conducted by Malaysia Shopping Malls Association (PPKM), about one out of five people is in a shopping mall on a weekend.
On Feb 21, the Australian High Commission published a travel advisory on its website warning of possible terror hits in Malaysia. A recent online video posted by an IS militant network, believed to be led by the mastermind behind Jakarta’s bombing, also threatened attacks on our country for arresting its supporters.
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