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Terrorism in urban areas

October 20, 2013

IN the developing countries almost three billion people are expected to move from rural areas to cities by the year 2050.

Many of them will end up in slums. These slums become ‘no-go areas’ where violent extremism foments if slum dwellers remain disenfranchised.

More terrorist attacks in cities are likely, particularly in the developing countries, where terrorists can exploit the teeming slums to conduct their violent business.

For a terrorist group, the most wretched urban areas also provide a steady flow of recruits and safe basis from which to plan and coordinate attacks.

Law enforcement in these areas is limited and in the most extreme cases, the so-called ‘no-go area’ slums are completely outside the control of the local government. In these places, terrorism will flourish.

The size and number of no-go areas will only grow in the coming decades, as the cities buckle under the weight of explosive growth.

New migrants will settle in the crowded slums that encircle each city, where there are few employment opportunities and the local government provides no services.

In Nairobi, Karachi, and other cities gangs and militias fill the vacuum. They consolidate wealth and power by controlling the passage of food, water and fuel into the city centre from the surrounding areas. Conflict between these gangs is dragging these areas into further disorder.

It is the paramount duty of the incumbent government to curb the urbanisation process and provide basic and essential necessities to rural areas.

If countries can successfully encourage the economic growth required to transform the poor into middle class, crises will be averted. If they cannot, slums will be fertile ground not only for enormous suffering, but also for the terrorism of tomorrow.