Which terrorists were behind the Boston Marathon bombings?

Speculation continues on who was responsible for the bombings at the Boston Marathon Photo: The bombings at the Boston Marathon (AP)

WEST PALM BEACH, Fl, April 16, 2013 - With no word on the perpetrators behind yesterday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon, speculation continues on who was responsible for the attack.

No group has yet claimed responsibility, and officials have yet to identify the terrorists.

However, there is increasing general conjecture that the coordinated attacks were the work of al Qaeda-linked terrorists. While authorities caution they have not yet compiled all the evidence in the case, many experts believe the timing, ferocity and coordination of the attacks point to al Qaeda terrorists. 

Not only did the two separate bombings target runners and spectators at the Boston Marathon, they also coincided with Patriot’s Day. Both bombs contained shrapnel and ball bearings to inflict maximum damage, according to authorities.  The bombs killed three, including an eight-year-old boy, and wounded hundreds others.

Andy Polk, former director of the congressional anti-terrorism caucus, told the Communities, “In the past several years we have seen several attacks fail because of a lack of bomb making acumen as well as the good work by the FBI.  So to have several bombs go off at a major event in a major city should give us pause because this attack seem to be done by someone with the skill to set off several bombs as well as plan this without detection.” 

Polk further noted, “What we saw today was the indiscriminate killing of innocent people during a major event covered by media from around the globe. So yes, I think it is clearly a terrorist attack. Someone, or some group, planned an attack during the Boston Marathon as a way to strike fear into people and use it as a platform to promote their agenda. We don’t know yet who these people are, what their grievance is or their agenda is, but the way this terrible attack took place we can say for sure this is terrorism. Again, they targeted a large event with a large group of innocent people, when they knew media would be there covering it. Those are typically the ingredients we see in acts of terrorism.”

The question is not whether the bombings were conducted by terrorists, but which terrorists were behind the attacks. 

Since the killing of Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda has splintered into various groups, with various leaders. 

Many of the radical Islamic terrorist groups remain loosely connected and operate under the al Qaeda banner, but operate independently. The Al Nusra Front in Syria, for example, recently pledged allegiance to al Qaeda but noted that it remains focused on Syrian issues and on overthrowing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, not on implementing al Qaeda’s objectives.

However, al Qaeda remains active and capable of carrying out attacks. Last year, radical Islamist groups took advantage of the chaos in Mali to take over the northern part of the country. They were not dislodged until French troops entered the country to expel them.  

One possibility is that one of the al Qaeda affiliates launched the attacks to not only terrorize Americans but also to demonstrate strength and capabilities to other groups in an effort to gain credibility.

Intelligence operations against al Qaeda suffered after the killing of bin Laden, hampering international efforts to track al Qaeda actions. Sources disappeared out of fear that they would face scrutiny or arrest, as happened with the Pakistani doctor who assisted American efforts to locate bin Laden. As a result, intelligence operations in the region were seriously hamstrung.

The wide geographical stretch of al Qaeda and affiliates as well as the continued divisions also makes tracking activities difficult.

Moreover, there are other militant groups not affiliated with al Qaeda that use violence against civilians to further their goals. There were more than 10,000 terrorist attacks around the world last year, killing more than 12,000 people and injuring more than 25,000, which demonstrates the deadly capabilities of terrorists.

Any one of those terrorist organizations could have planted the two bombs in Boston yesterday.

However, it is equally possible that the bombings were the result of home-grown terrorist groups, hate groups or others. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are currently more than 1,000 active hate groups in the United States.

The bombings demonstrate the vulnerabilities of America and the damage that attacks much smaller than the 9/11 planes cause. The Boston Marathon bombings hurt America, caused fear and killed innocent civilians. These are the goals of anti-US terrorists.

The bombings could also spark copy-cat attacks and will almost certainly serve as a recruiting tool for militants. The devastation and horror caused by the attacks will fuel enthusiasm by those who seek to inflict harm on the United States.

Regardless of who is behind the bombings, the attacks were terrorism. They caused fear among the population and killed innocent people.

The attacks once again show the need for increased intelligence capabilities to detect and thwart these types of attacks. The only way to prevent terrorists from carrying out their objectives is to boost information collection.

If we are scrambling to identify perpetrators after the attacks have taken place, we are too late.


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Lisa M. Ruth

Lisa M. Ruth started her career at the CIA, where she won several distinguished awards for her service and analysis.  After leaving the government, she joined a private intelligence firm in South Florida as President, where she oversaw all research, analysis and reporting.

Lisa joined CDN as a journalist in 2009 and writes extensively on intelligence, world affairs, and breaking news. She also provides investigative reporting and news analysis. Lisa continues to write both for her own columns and as a guest writer on a wide variety of subjects, and is now Executive Editor for CDN and edits the Global, Family and Health sections.  She is also a regular contributor to Newsmax and other publications.

Contact Lisa M. Ruth

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