Age of Terror - a timely engagement with terrorism | Belfast and Beyond | 15 Apr 2008 | Amnesty International UK

Age of Terror - a timely engagement with terrorism

Just a quick note to say look out this evening for the first programme in a new four-part series from journalist Peter Taylor. The programmes, looking at politically-inspired acts of violence over recent decades, start tonight on BBC2 under the title 'Age of Terror' (lots of good background here).

I feel I can recommend the progarmmes sight unseen, simply based on Taylor's consistently high-quality output from Northern Ireland (and the Middle East) since the early seventies whether in the shape of regular journalism, innovative broadcasting or ground-breaking books, bringing to the fore interviews, news and analysis which, frankly, was largely beyond the capacity of run-of-the-mill 'war correspondents'.

Of course, I expect that this series will also cover some familiar ground for Peter Taylor he previously brought out a book and series for the BBC in 1993, called 'States of Terror', which also went beyond the commonplace 'bad men' analysis of terrorism, without falling into the trap of misplaced mythologising of those who bring violence and terror to civilian populations.

The series, starting tonight, will look at four 'acts of terror', with the first programme, Terror International telling "the extraordinary story of the 1976 hijacking of a plane by Palestinians in alliance with German Marxist revolutionaries. The historic crisis ended with a dramatic raid on Entebbe airport to rescue the hostages from Idi Amin's Uganda."

Subsequent programmes will examine the 1987 Enniskillen bombing by the IRA, the 1994 hijacking by Islamists of an Air France plane in Algiers and finally, the 1998 al-Qaeda truck bombing at the American embassy in Nairobi. The incidents will be used to tell the wider story of the development of 'terrorism' and, presumably, the different sorts of non-state actors which use the tactics.

Can one lump all these actors together as 'terrorists'? Does this help our understanding of their actions and motivations? Is our analysis successful in helping us bring this type of violence to an end?

Timely questions for the whole world, but also pertinent for Amnesty International as we consider how an international human rights organisation can most effectively respond to terror as well as to counter-terror.

Your thoughts?

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