The British Government’s issuance of a “terrorist attack” alert on Liberia has sent the Liberian media into virtual overdrive, driven by an anxious public in search of answers to ease their growing concerns and apprehension about the consequences of such an attack.
The British Government on Tuesday of this week issued a terror alert warning that there is heightened threat of a terrorist attack against UK interests and British nationals by elements that draw inspiration from ongoing developments in Syria and Iraq.
The alert did not state when or where the attack is expected to be mounted but it has warned British nationals in Liberia and those desirous of traveling to Liberia to avoid beach resorts, hotels, cafes, crowded areas and restaurants frequented mainly by foreigners.
The terror alert further warned that attacks in Liberia cannot be ruled out, given the experience from Mali, Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso — especially Cote d’Ivoire, where there was the least thought of a terrorist attack prior to the incident a fair distance from the border with Liberia at Maryland County. And although La Cote d’Ivoire had experienced a civil war and occasional armed clashes along its border with Liberia, it was least imagined that terrorists would have struck the port city of Grand-Bassam in the country’s southeast, quite a long distance from Mali where UN troops are currently involved in peacekeeping operations.
This situation notwithstanding, Liberian security officials, according to sources, are taking the matter seriously and the Liberian joint security apparatus, along with the United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS), are reviewing the matter with a view to countering the threat or adopting measures to mitigate whatever potential harm may result should terrorist elements actualize the threat to attack foreign interests in Liberia, be they British, American or otherwise.
But sources say that while the threat of a terrorist attack cannot be ruled out, official threat assessment reports do not appear to suggest that the likelihood of such an occurrence is high or else the UNDSS would have by now increased its threat response to Phase 3, which calls for the adoption and introduction of heightened threat response mitigation measures.
Meanwhile, in the wake of the terror alert issued by the UK, there have been increasing calls from the public on security authorities, particularly the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS), to beef up security along the country’s porous borders with Guinea, Sierra Leone and La Cote d’Ivoire, as well as to conduct screening exercises aimed at ferreting out illegal immigrants, some of whom could possibly be terrorists lying in wait for the appropriate moment to strike.
According to sources, the Liberia National Police(LNP) has also stepped up its night patrols and erected checkpoints at various places around the city in a bid to deter any would-be attacker from bringing in arms, ammunition and other warlike materials into Monrovia, the country’s largest urban settlement with a population of over one million persons. The erection of checkpoints around the city as well as the introduction of other security measures, according to police sources, are also intended to combat the growing crime wave in Monrovia, especially violent crimes involving the use of firearms and other dangerous weapons.
It, however, remains to be seen whether an over-stretched poorly trained and poorly equipped national security apparatus, including military and para-military forces, have the mettle to keep the lid on the unfolding of any such untoward developments.