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Since 9/11, there have been sporadic attacks on Muslims in Western countries, perpetrated by right-wing terrorists, but none has been more horrific and shocking than the coordinated assault on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, after Friday prayers on March 15, 2019.

Anniversaries have a special significance in the terrorist calendar. This act of wanton religious violence took place several weeks after the 25th anniversary of the most infamous mosque shooting, in Hebron, Israel, on the morning of February 25, 1994. Baruch Goldstein, a doctor raised in U.S., entered the mosque at the Tomb of the Patriarchs, pulled out an assault rifle, fired 111 shots, killing 29 Muslims, injuring 125 others. It looks as if this carnage was surpassed in Christchurch.

Terrorist lone-wolves, like Baruch Goldstein, are hard to track because they leave only a small plot planning footprint. The Christchurch attack appears well coordinated and executed, and would have left a sizeable plot planning footprint, that security officials might potentially have detected.

Christchurch mosque
Masjid Al Noor, Deans Road, Christchurch – location of the first terror attack (Image credit: Wikimedia)

New Zealand is a country with a very low Jihadi threat level, and its overall terror threat level has now been raised from low to high for the first time in the country’s history. It is a member of the exclusive Anglophone Five Eyes Alliance, along with U.S., U.K., Canada and Australia. The level of counter-terrorism surveillance afforded by a large annual budget of US$100 billion has suppressed terrorism to the extent that plots against the Five Eyes Alliance involving more than a few operatives are almost all interdicted, before the terrorists move towards their targets.

All across the Five Eyes Alliance, right-wing extremism is gaining hold as the threat from ISIS recedes. Immigrant intolerance is becoming popular mainstream politics, actively supported by right-wing extremists. Terrorism is the language of being noticed. The Christchurch attack was live-streamed on social media. One of the terrorists that has been arrested and charged, a 28-year-old Australian, publicized his online manifesto, rather as the Norwegian anti-Muslim extremist, Anders Breivik, did in 2011.

The Christchurch terrorist attack matters to every citizen of the Five Eyes Alliance and will have repercussions well beyond the shores of New Zealand. The brutal killing of many innocent Muslims in their sacred places feeds the victimization and hatred narrative that has fueled the Jihad since 9/11. Nothing can excuse acts of terrorism; but they are often justified by Islamists as reprisals for the murder of innocent Muslims worldwide.

Quite apart from active shooter insurance coverage, the terrorism in Christchurch has much broader implications for terrorism insurers. Outraged by the bloodshed by their Muslim brothers and sisters, which is certain to feature in Jihadi propaganda, violent terrorist reprisals may be expected against the Five Eyes Alliance.

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Gordan Woo pic
Gordon Woo
Catastrophist, Moody's RMS

Gordon is a catastrophe-risk expert, with 30 years’ experience in catastrophe science, covering both natural and man-made hazards. Gordon is the chief architect of Moody's RMS terrorism risk model, which he started work on a year after joining RMS in December 2000. For his thought leadership in terrorism risk modeling, he was named by Treasury & Risk magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in finance in 2004. He has since lectured on terrorism at the NATO Center of Excellence for the Defense against Terrorism and testified before the U.S. Congress on terrorism-risk modeling.

As an acknowledged, international expert on catastrophes, Gordon is the author of two acclaimed books: “The Mathematics of Natural Catastrophes” (1999) and “Calculating Catastrophe” (2011). Dr. Woo graduated as the best mathematician of his year at Cambridge University and he completed his doctorate at MIT as a Kennedy Scholar and was a member of the Harvard Society of Fellows. He also has a Master of Science in computer science from Cambridge University.

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