The Boston Attacks and Possible Scenarios

Published on Strategy International on 16 April 2013 as part of the research programme US Foreign and Security Policy. Click here to view full report.


On April 15th two bombings during the Boston Marathon shook the USA and the whole world. At the moment of writing there are three confirmed dead, including an 8-year old boy, and more than 130 injured while according to the Boston Globe 30 of them were transferred ‘under code red’ which means life threatening injuries. Additionally, at the moment no one has assumed responsibility for the attacks. Yet the scenarios about possible perpetrators are spreading. Many people active on social media quickly said that the attacks were another attack on American soil by Islamist organisations. The American government and other officials have yet to give an official statement about the perpetrators of the attack. Although there are statements that they are considering it a terrorist attack, Barack Obama avoided to mention this in his statement and said:

“We don’t know who did this or why (…) but make no mistake, we will get to the bottom of this, and we will find out who did this and why they did this; any responsible individuals, any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice”.

 However, there are two possible scenarios concerning those responsible. The first scenario is that the attacks are an act of domestic terrorism by either an extremist right-wing organisation or isolated perpetrators. The second scenario is that the attack is indeed an act of Islamic terrorism and is connected to the current international developments.

Both scenarios are equally strong; however, the first one seems more possible at the moment and there are two reasons for that: the first reason is that the attack took place in Boston, the place that the American Revolution began, during the Patriot’s Day; secondly the attack came in a period that the Obama Administration pushes for social reforms in various sectors including tax reforms, healthcare reforms and stricter gun control – reforms that are considered ‘socialist’ by many conservatives.

Concerning the first reason, this day is significant and important to many Americans thus the attack could be considered as another form of revolution against the current administration that according to right wing conservatives is un-American and against American values. Concerning the second reason, it is not new that Obama has been criticised by many conservative outlets as one of the most liberal and even socialist presidents. Consequently, it would not be surprising if the attacks are a message to the current administration that these – unconstitutional to many – reforms will not be tolerated.

As far as the first scenario is concerned, the attacks may indeed be connected to international developments as at the time there are many open fronts – be that the civil war in Syria and the fact that the USA is helping the opposition; the constant Iranian nuclear threat; the fact that Barack Obama reaffirmed his administration’s strong support to Israel during his trip; or even the North Korean power show.

Even though the Boston bombings followed the pattern of modern international terrorism – as they were made during a major event in a hectic time with many people around – they fall short on claiming responsibility. If in fact this attack was made by an international terrorist group they would have assumed responsibility by now as something like this would raise their status as they would have attacked their biggest enemy in their soil just as it happened in 9/11. Yet as of now, one of America’s most prominent woes, the Taliban in Pakistan, have announced that the Boston attacks were not made by them.

“Certainly, America is our target and we will attack the U.S. and its allies whenever the [Pakistani Taliban] finds the opportunity, but we are not involved in this attack”Ehsanullah Ehsan, the group’s spokesman, said.

However, before an official statement is made, it is very soon to say for sure that the attack was either an incident of domestic terrorism or part of international terrorism. However, one thing is for sure: taking into account statements that the bombs were packed with ball bearings and BBs, the USA is indeed in need of stricter gun control as these attacks are an immediate consequence of loose laws.

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