On the evening of 11th April 2017, three explosions hit the Borussia Dortmund team bus as it drove from a hotel to the club’s home stadium. At least one player suffered a serious injury, which required an operation in hospital. The attack resulted in the club’s important UEFA Champion League quarter-final match between the German team and Monaco being delayed.
Three letters found close to the scene of the attack, all suggested that the events were the work of Islamic terrorists.
Yet, as the twenty-eight-year-old perpetrator checked into the upmarket L’Arrivée Hotel and Spa in South Dortmund, Germany, before the attacks, the hotel receptionist didn’t give him a second glance, not considering him to be an Islamic militant.
Perhaps suspicions should have been raised when the man turned down the first room he was shown, overlooking the perfectly manicured gardens - insisting rather aggressively, that he have a room with direct view of the hotel car park instead?
Maybe hotel staff assumed that he were just an extremely avid Borussia Dortmund fan, who wanted to see his team leave the upscale hotel before their Champions League quarter-final match with Monaco the following day?
In the hotel's restaurant, the German perpetrator gave no hint of ideological beliefs. There were no arguments about meat not being halal, no shouting that pork should be taken off of the menu, or outrage that alcohol was often served at breakfast.
And when three pipe bombs hidden in bushes were detonated and sprayed the Borussia team bus with shrapnel as it left the hotel car park on route to the game with Monaco, police didn’t connect the hotel guest to the claims of responsibility.
The claims in three identical letters that were found on the ground, near to the seat of each blast, demanded the withdrawal of German Tornado surveillance planes from Syria, where they are involved in the military operation against Isis, and for the closure of Ramstein Air Base, the main base for American and NATO military forces in Germany. The letter also stated that, with immediate effect, “all unbelieving actors, singers, athletes and all prominent personalities in Germany and other crusader nations are on an Islamic State death list”.
Many commentators were quick to condemn the attack as the work of ‘immigrants’; stating that here again was yet more evidence of Angela Merkel’s dreadful policy of resettling over a million Syrian refugees; that with the ‘Islamification’ of the West, we could expect more of this.
But the reality turned out to be somewhat different.
Police found that the German man who had argued about his room, had also purchased ‘put options’ on Borussia shares before the blast. Those options, plus the drop in share price following the attacks, and the Borussia loss to Monaco in the cup - stood to make him tens of thousands of pounds.
Police quickly established that a room with a line of sight to the team bus outside had been important to the man, because he needed to see the pipe bombs detonate as he controlled them remotely. Miraculously there was just one injury on the team coach, a broken wrist. But the damage was done. Borussia lost not just their home match, but the away leg at Monaco too. Their share price dropped.
Dortmund bomb blast for money not terror
The man wasn’t an Islamist at all. The claims were false. He was a simple criminal. Simple in the fact that the police were easily able to see through his scheme and identify the evidence to charge him - demonstrating that this was nothing more than a money-making scheme, and not some ideological, religiously based fight.
Thomas de Maizière, Germany’s interior minister, said, ‘It is interesting that someone with a criminal motive here would pose as if he were a terrorist in an especially insidious way to play with people's’ fears,’, and that it was ‘despicable’ that the suspect had played on public fears surrounding Islamic extremists for the purpose of personal financial gain.
Do we really think that this is the first time this has happened? That an alleged act of terror has concealed a wholly and simple criminal act? Are we that naïve? What if this is just the tip of a very big iceberg. What if countless criminal plots, by devious and clever criminals, out to simply make money, are carefully concealed behind what we believe to be acts of terror?
Admittedly, the choice of target, the irregular claims of responsibility, the links to the share options, and the fact that the suspect was so close to the scene of the crime, have made this plot much easier to decipher than most. But I think that there is always an opportunity to discover the real motive behind many of these attacks. Sadly, all too often they are written off as terrorism and we hear no more about them.
Does the fact that organised criminals could be responsible for many acts of terror make it more or less terrifying?
I don’t know the answer to that last one.
There are few crimes committed where mass murder is involved with the intention of covering up something often completely unrelated, in order to throw the scent of suspicion on others. But it does happen.
And the #FearFacade is used much more often than we realise.
Sometimes criminals have totally ulterior motives. Sometimes extremists are duped into carrying out attacks by others, which are meant to look like terrorism - yet conceal far more insidious crimes.
When a murder or fraud is committed, we want to know why. What are the motives and reasons behind that crime?
But when we chalk an attack up to ‘terrorism’ and fail to dig any deeper, we are failing to thoroughly investigate the motives behind the events.
Ten years ago, as holiday-makers prepared to jet off on their summer vacations from Scotland, a burning Jeep was rammed into the departures terminal at Glasgow airport.
Terror headlines reverberated around the world:
“Blazing car crashes into Scottish airport in terror attack!”
“Airport incident was terrorism!”
“UK terror threat now critical!”
Some media commentators were not so sure.
“Terror in Glasgow? Scots are perplexed” – stated the New York Times. Why hit Glasgow of all places? It wasn’t the seat of any government nor the focus for any particular unrest?
So was this really terrorism? Or something else entirely?
If you've enjoyed The Theseus Paradox, my first thriller based on true events, you'll know that terrorism is never just about terror.
To find out more, grab a copy of my latest thriller.
In The Detriment, Detective Jake Flannagan will discover that just like the recent attack on the Borussia Dortmund team coach, there was more to the burning Glasgow airport attack than meets the eye.
To pre-order your copy at Amazon, click: http://hyperurl.co/KindleDetriment