What do the Malaysia Airlines disasters, an Ebola outbreak in Eastern Africa, and terrorists have in common?
MH17, EVD, and ISIL. No, it’s not some weird new programming code but a sad day for global travel.
I woke this morning, not to news of the Malaysia Airlines disaster (that came later) but of a massive outbreak of Ebola (EVD) in Eastern Africa. In 2014 alone, there has been 964 confirmed cases of Ebola in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, with more than 600 dead! That’s a staggering (and frightening) 61.5 percent mortality rate!
You will find more statistics at Statista
Ebola and Marburg are viruses that have terrified me ever since I read The Hot Zone: A Terrifying True Story about the scientists studying these deadly filoviruses. Any disease that can liquefy internal organs and kill at such a phenomenal rate deserves to be feared. The 1995 movie, Outbreak starring Dustin Hoffman and Rene Russo, briefly touched on the possibility of Ebola making it to the developed world, but the real fear behind this disease is how quickly it spreads, and how far reaching an outbreak could become if an infected person was to board a commercial airliner bound for a massive international travel hub. Take Heathrow for example, with approximately 200,000 people a day arriving and departing to and from other international airports. Imagine just one infected person landing at Heathrow… Like I said, terrifying.
But then I turned on the news and heard the biggest news of the day about Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. At this stage, it seems it may have been shot down my a rebel missile over Ukraine but it is too early to confirm yet what really happened. Still, this is tragic on so many fronts. Following so closely on the heels of the mysterious disappearance of MH370 – a mystery that is no closer to being solved – it is yet another blow for the troubled airline. There are some saying that Malaysia Airlines took an unnecessary risk flying over a war zone, but they were not alone. As you can see by the graphic below, there were dozens of planes crossing Ukrainian airspace at the time MH17 was shot down (though smartly they all fled the flight corridor straight afterwards). While it might seem suspicious that the same airline was involved, it would have been a long shot for the rebels to determine which airline they were shooting down. In fact, if you believe the YouTube video making the rounds of news stations, the rebels supposedly thought they were shooting down a military plane. It’s tragic but true that this could have been any airline. It was just an unlucky coincidence that it happened to be Malaysia Airlines.
In yet more terrible news this morning was the confirmation that an Australian suicide bomber killed three people and injured up to 90 in an attack on a Shiite mosque in Baghdad. While it might be easy to brush this off as an Iraqi problem, or something happening just in the Middle East, it brings to light a very real global threat. Unless you’ve had your head in the sand these last few months, you would no doubt know about the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) mounting brutal attacks throughout the Middle East. What you may not realise, though, is how many foreigners are joining the fight. Australia has hinted there are at least 60 Australians who have joined ISIL. But almost every other Western country has similar issues. So what happens when these jihadists return home?
Australian politicians are definitely worried. ASIO Director-General David Irvine is calling for tougher national security laws, a move echoed by the Australian Attorney-General George Brandis.
“A decade or so ago, during the Afghan conflict, about 30 Australians travelled to Afghanistan to link up with the Taliban and engage in jihadist war fighting on behalf of the Taliban. Of those 30, 25 returned to Australia. Of those 25, 19 were involved in preparing and planning mass casualty terrorist attacks in Australia, and of those 19, 8 were actually prosecuted and convicted,” Brandis said in an interview with ABC radio.
In the last ten years, the Australian government has intercepted and stopped at least four mass casualty attacks planned for Australian soil. We’re not alone. Many other Western nations have either had successful attacks or thwarted potential terror plots.
But before we turn this into a racial issue, I would point out that current statistics show less than 10 percent of US terror plots, and less than 1 percent of European attacks are by Muslims. That’s a whole lot of home grown terrorists! In fact, frighteningly, there are a growing number of environmental and animal rights terrorists!
Still, as a writer with a vivid imagination, these unconnected tragedies leave me with some terrifying questions: How many terrorists groups, or rebel forces have access to surface-to-air missiles? And how long before one of these terrorist organisations sees an opportunity to be had in Eastern Africa? Imagine for just a minute, a bunch of wannabe terrorists stopping over in Sierra Leone on their way back home…