On Monday 22 May, at around 10.30pm, a jihadist terrorist suicide bombing at the end of an Ariana Grande concert in the concourse between the Manchester Arena and Victoria train station killed 22 people, including several children, and injured more than 100 others. The attack followed a pattern that has become grimly familiar in Europe and, to a lesser extent, the United States. A single terrorist with Middle Eastern roots but born in his host country – radicalised by travel to a ‘field of jihad’ as well as local events; known to counter-terrorism authorities but not considered a serious threat – chose a ‘soft’ target and caused mass casualties while taking his own life. He was inspired by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. As of the date of publication, it remained unclear whether the suicide bomber planned the attack himself.
Like the recent attacks in Paris and Brussels, the Manchester attacker exploited the enjoyments and vulnerabilities of modern, middle-class urban life in an effort to destabilise public interaction and shatter public confidence in the government’s capacity to protect the populace. As ISIS comes under increasing military pressure in Syria and Iraq – which will probably culminate in its battlefield defeat – the group and perhaps al-Qaeda are likely to amplify their incitement of, and assistance in, terrorist operations against soft targets in the West in an effort to maintain their overall threat and political salience.