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Trends In Terrorist Threats Against Sports Stadiums And Arenas

By Dr. Joshua Sinai

The significant increase in plots and attacks by Islamist terrorist groups (including lone wolves) against Western targets, whether in the U.S. or overseas, include intentionally targeting the large crowds that fill sports stadiums and arenas (SSAs).

This was particularly the case on November 13, 2015 when an ISIS-affiliated suicide bomber attempted to enter the national soccer stadium in Paris, which was packed with a capacity crowd of 80,000 spectators (including the country's prime minister), to detonate his explosive belt inside the stadium in order to cause mass fatalities and a deadly stampede out of the stadium. While the attacker was stopped when a security guard discovered his suicide vest while searching him at the entrance, he still succeeded in detonating his bomb as he backed away from the security guard, blowing himself up together with a security guard. Demonstrating how such an attack can be part of a larger series of simultaneous attacks, as part of the overall operation that targeted four other sites, a second ISIS team attacked the Bataclan theater, located in another Paris district, with their continuous shootings killing 89 people, with several hundred others injured at the concert hall.

The outdoor national soccer stadium and the enclosed Bataclan theater were intentionally selected, as have other similar venues in the past, because attacking their massively concentrated crowds would result in large scale deaths and injuries, extensive publicity for the terrorists' cause and brutality, economic damage to the affected municipality, including to other business sectors such as tourism and retail, as well as a significant disruption to the regular operation of such iconic facilities. In addition to the direct impacts of these incidents, secondary impacts also affect larger audiences beyond the localized incident. For example, one of an attack's psychological impact is to spread fear and anxiety throughout the targeted society, as well as in influencing future SSA customer behaviors, such as resulting in substantially reduced attendance at future events or holding such events at other facilities.

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