Hospitals as Soft Targets
In 2014, a raid of an ISIS facility in northern Syria led to the recovery of a laptop with hidden files containing propaganda, instructions for making biological weapons, and training manuals outlining how to convene attacks. Other items recovered from similar raids have outlined instructions for soft-target attacks as evidenced by the ensuing attacks in Nice, London, and the Pulse nightclub shooting; among many others since. Soft targets are facilities or locations which have little to no security and are highly vulnerable to sudden attack. This type of target is often chosen as a means of psychological warfare, in that there is a high probability of mass casualties.
More than this, as police and security agencies become more successful in thwarting coordinated terrorist attacks, soft target attacks have been on the rise. Healthcare organizations, in particular, have been under attack by a number terrorist groups across the world. The World Health Organization tracks these attacks on healthcare groups and provides quarterly reports via the Surveillance System of Attacks on Healthcare (SSA.)
In the most recent report, the third quarter of 2018, the WHO reported 69 attacks across the world-mainly located in the Middle East and parts of the African continent. The majority of these attacks occurred in the Syrian Arab Republic (15 attacks), Yemen (11 attacks), and the Central African Republic (9 attacks.) Attacks in quarter three were mostly bombings and shootings, with 28 of the total attacks being on facility targets and 36 on provider targets.