05 March, 2023 Security
There are six takeaways. First, this case proves Islamist jihadists remain a threat to the US, and they continue to target hotels. Muir Analytics’ statistics demonstrate that Islamist jihadists are responsible for 80% of global terrorist attacks on hotels.
Second, the gravity of the Islamist jihadist threat to hotels and other civilian venues remains high. Al-Azhari and those like him are dedicated, relentless, and committed to high casualty attacks. It is notable that Al-Azhari was inspired by the Orlando attack, not repelled by it. Continued vigilance is required to counter the threat.
Third, this case demonstrates that individuals can execute punishing hotel attacks. They do not have to be done by a squad of terrorists like the devastating 2008 Mumbai attacks that included assaults on the Taj Mahal, Trident, and Oberoi hotels. Individual assailants can achieve similar results as proven by the June 2015 assault on the Riu Imperial Marhaba in Sousse, Tunisia, that killed 38 and wounded 39. And while the DoJ did not label the October 2017 Mandalay Bay attack in Las Vegas as terrorism, it was done by an individual using terrorist tactics. That attack killed 60, and wounded over 400, and the payout to the victims was over $800 million.
Fourth, the attack by Al-Azhari’s sister is not surprising. It is common for Islamist jihadist family members and close associates to collude in significant attacks and also to engage in retaliatory attacks after their loved ones/associates have been arrested or killed. Revenge is a standard tenet of Islamist jihadist ideology.
Fifth, the FBI’s actions, in this case, proved that, despite being wounded by political scandals, its Counterterrorism Division is still highly capable of stopping terrorist attacks. And despite missing a handful of Islamist operations, such as the San Bernadino massacre in December 2015, the division’s track record of stopping more attacks than it has missed cannot be denied. Its preventing another 9-11-scale attack from happening in the US for 20 years must also be recognized. This success is partly due to the FBI’s enduring counterterrorism vigilance and its artful ability to get inside and even ahead of a terrorist’s decision cycle to thwart their plans.
Sixth, modern hotel counterterrorism security requires more than just vigilance by the FBI. It requires hotels to adopt what the US Secret Service calls “protective intelligence” methods (“security intelligence” in the UK). Besides interfacing with law enforcement, protective intelligence for hotels means using statistical trends and case studies of terror attacks to:
Terrorist threat mitigation includes physical security, crisis management plans, customized insurance coverage, and legal protection. The latter is essential considering the increase of lawsuits over hotel violence negligence – witness the $800 million payout over the Mandalay Bay massacre.
“Tampa man pleads guilty to attempting to provide material support to ISIS,” US Department of Justice, 24 February 2023.
“Thwarted terrorist attack in Tampa planned by ISIS member: FBI,” Patch, 24 February 2023.
“Temple Terrace officers cleared in shooting of woman who pulled knife,” Tampa Bay Times, 21 July 2020.
Copyright©Muir Analytics 2023