Homeland Security Network Blog
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Drone attacks are essentially terrorism by joystick
Bernard Hudson is the former director of counterterrorism at the CIA and is a nonresident fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center.
A failed assassination attempt against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro on Saturday was mounted with explosive-armed drones, according to news reports. Nine days earlier, and on the other side of the world, terrorists claimed to have sent an armed drone to attack the international airport in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. No one was killed in either case, and the circumstances of both remain murky. But a new and dangerous era in non-state-sponsored terrorism clearly has begun, and no one is adequately prepared to counter it.
In Caracas, Venezuela’s capital, government officials said one or more drones detonated explosives above the audience at a nationally televised military event. Several people were injured, though not the president or his wife, Cilia Flores, who was standing next to him onstage. Maduro blamed his political opponents.
In Abu Dhabi, Houthi rebels from Yemen said they had launched a drone attack at the airport. UAE authorities deny the incident occurred, but the greater truth is that it is technically possible — indeed, not difficult at all — for the rebels to have done so. Reinforcing this is the wide belief that the Houthis are being advised by Iran’s special security services, which have shown an impressive capability for such things.
Both of these episodes will encourage other technologically savvy groups and disgruntled individuals to use drones to commit political violence. While news of the events in Venezuela and the UAE was disturbing, the failed attempt in Abu Dhabi is especially worrisome because of the mass casualties that destroying an airliner would cause.