NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

April 23, 2013

New front in terror war will be tough fight

After a dozen years of the war on terror, America has grown somewhat complacent toward the threat of Muslim fundamentalist terrorism here at home.

It’s clear that the war abroad and our security measures at home have rendered al-Qaida incapable of executing a large-scale strike against the United States comparable to the Twin Towers and Pentagon attacks of 2001 that left nearly 3,000 dead. Instead, al-Qaida has been relegated to failed, individual attempts such as “shoe bomber” Richard Reid and “underwear bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

To be sure, lone lunatics like Maj. Nidal Hasan, who killed 13 at Fort Hood in 2009, may have been inspired by Islamic fanaticism. But evidence suggests he was acting alone.

Now, with the Boston Marathon bombings, it appears we have something different, something that falls between the massive terrorist operation of Sept. 11, 2001, and the individual attacks by the likes of the shoe bomber.

Two brothers, born in the Russian region of Chechnya and its environs, had come to the United States and seemed to be building lives for themselves here. But at some point, their native Muslim beliefs became radicalized to the point that Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev decided to construct bombs made of steel bearings, nails and pressure cookers and set them off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

Tamerlan, 26, was an amateur boxer who had recently married and had a child. Dzhokhar, 19, was a college student at UMass Dartmouth. What force could turn such seemingly ordinary young men into instruments of evil? Do not doubt that evil is the correct word. The bombs they built were designed to inflict maximum human injury. A photo from the blast site shows Dzhokhar leaving the scene, having just placed the knapsack containing the bomb near the feet of young Martin Richard, the 8-year-old killed in the bombing.

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