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Salman Abedi: The New Face of Modern-Day Terrorism

By Dr. Halla Diyab

31 May 2017

Recent terror attacks have all been followed by face to the crime. From Bastille Day killings where a lorry ploughed into a large crowd watching a fireworks display in Nice, to the gunman Seifeddine Rezgui who opened fire on innocent tourists on the Tunisian beach leaving thirty-eight people dead, to the “lone wolf” Khalid Masoud who mowed his car through crowds on Westminster Bridge and stabbed PC Keith Palmer, it has been like history repeating itself.

We have witnessed a transition in the face of modern terrorism. However, Manchester arena bomber, Salman Abedi whose massacred 22 innocent people brought back the traditionalist face of terrorism – a militant with a suicide vest. This does not only prove that it is very difficult to predict the rapidly changing face of terrorism today, but also sparks a rebuttal against the image of the archetypal militant who toggles between different ideologies.

It may be another time, another place, and another context, but the rucksack full of explosives is a recurring image of what a terrorist attack looks like. In the nearly 12 years since the 7/7 suicide bombers led by Mohammad Sidique Khan left 52 people dead and hundreds injured, the archetype of a militant was widely considered as an Islamist radical with a suicide vest.

With the rise of ISIS, the twisted ideology has become more globalized, more fractured, more complex, but arguably more flexible. Young and upcoming militants are deviating from the prescribed norms and bypassing the ideological norms picking what suits them from ISIS, and topping it up with what they like from its rival; al-Qaeda. Salman Abedi is not an exception.

ISIS encourages through its online-publication and linked-magazine, followers to carry out “lone-wolf” attacks by using cars, lorries, knifes or other equipment in their attacks, which are cost-effective, individualistic, pragmatic, and hard to predict. Khalid Masoud of the Westminster attack went by the book, and his barbaric attack was more the perfect manifestation of his criminality and rage, than a loyalty to a militants narrative or ideology.

On the other hand, al-Qaeda was after tremendous acts of terror and mass murder with tactics and double acts that imbed the sophistication and thoughtfulness of the group. 9/11, and 7/7 bombings introduced the world to the most horrific and prolific face of terror of an ideology that was strong enough to induce pre-flight jitters in the masses for years to come.

Salman Abedi’s radicalization is not down to the lack of integration in the UK, or online-grooming, or even revenge. He is not a militant who was radicalized online but rather had deep-rooted extremist beliefs

Militant in Waiting

Salman Abedi who featured in one of the photos taken of him in the mosque wearing a top with military camouflage patterns was a militant in waiting, ready to pick and choose the pieces from the two rivalry terrorist ideologies to carve out an identity.

The multi-faceted militant identity of Salman Abedi operates on his crossover between different ideologies of both ISIS and al-Qaeda. The Manchester lad, who apparently carried resentment toward the west, is speculated to have followed in the steps of his father who was a member of al-Qaeda group; the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, who tried to assassinate former Libyan president, Mummar Gaddafi in the 1990s.

Salman was brought up on his father’s militant ideology which led him and his brother, Hachem, to carry arms and fight on the frontline in Libya. By moving to Libya, which has become a stronghold of ISIS after the fall of Gaddafi, Salman came face-to-face with the rising ideology of ISIS, the new trend.

Between his father’s al-Qaeda traditionalist ideology and the rising modern movement of post-Libyan war, Salman redefines a combination of the two ideologies to carry an individualistic, pragmatic attack – something which makes him an ISIS militant in essence – but with a mass-impact by targeting a crowd to create a horrific face of terror following by that, al-Qaeda’s ideological conventions of terror.

New Paradigm

Out of the shadows, Salman Abedi emerges with a new paradigm of the two extreme ideologies, relinquishing his invisibility and fast evolving from fighting against dictatorship to brandishing machine guns and suicide vests. The attack highlights how Salman Abedi had misogynistic beliefs, as the attack targeted vulnerable young women on a night of celebrating life and freedom, but it also highlights how the role of militates is evolving unconventionally within the terrorist group.

Salman Abedi’s radicalization is not down to the lack of integration in the United Kingdom, or online-grooming, or even revenge. He is not a militant who was radicalized online in his bedroom but rather had deep-rooted extremist beliefs.

Salman carried not only explosives, but years of extremist ideas his father has been feeding him with, and then was nourished on the soil of Libya. Salman Abedi represents the deeply damaging repercussions the British foreign policy is having on British society.

The violence that shrouded Gaddafi’s death footage summarizes another face of many rebels. The world failed to see beyond the violent aggression of that scene to praise the doing of Libyan militant youngsters, among of which was Salman Abedi.

No one imagined that one of these youngsters was opting to become the architect of our girls’ fate, signing up for a future of terror where he came so close to our streets, and kill us all.


Dr. Halla Diyab is an award winning screen-writer, producer, broadcaster, a published author and an activist. She has a Ph.D. in English and American Studies from the University of Leicester. She carried out research in New Orleans, USA while working on her thesis “The Examination of Marginality and Minorities in the Drama and Film of Tennessee Wil-liams”. She holds an MA in Gender and Women Studies from the University of Warwick.




Total Comments (1)

  • 1 .
    An excellent article that analyzes the changing dimension and profile of the terrorist. While the author has made distinction between al-Qaida and ISIS brands of terrorism, they both follow the same blue-print as captured in these words in one of my articles referenced below: 

    "It purports to exhort the Muslim minority countries of the world in these terms: “..the brothers and sisters who are living in the countries of Kufr can target the enemy within their own territories and this is what terrifies the crusader-zionists of the world. They call it ‘homegrown terrorism’. We call it the most beautiful obligation that Allah, the Exalted Has Ordained for the Muslims.”   

    - Adnan Rasheed, one of Taliban heroes has this message for the members of Pakistan armed forces: “They must kill their co-workers and defect and reach to us somehow; our hands are open for them. At least they must have matches in the canteens to burn the AIR CRAFT, POL, or Weapon Cache or Engine of Naval Warship or to at least put sand in their engines.”

    The discourse thus aims at forming independent, unconnected pool of militant jihadists, who will operate either on their own or as very small secretive, sleeping and invisible groups as ‘homegrown terrorists.’ Given that one single terrorist with kitchen knives in his blood stained hands can terrorize a whole nation, if not the whole world (recent London attack), and just few suicide bombers and ruthless killers can kill scores, if not hundreds of civilians in the most casual and sensational manner and upset the communal harmony in a society, political stability of a country, provoke a deadly backlash and set off a cycle of violence – a daily norm in some Muslim lands, the plot is deadly for the broader humanity. There is no reference to the virgins in paradise. There is no emotion or anger. It is business document written on the acclaimed strength of the religion asking the readers – Muslim youth and intelligentsia for demanding settlement of loan from defaulting clients."



    Muhammad Yunus, co-author (Jointly with Ashfaque Ullah Syed), Essential Message of Islam, Amana Publications, USA, 2009.
    By muhammd yunus 01/06/2017 08:45:40