I was sitting in my room at a Kabul guest house, when the impact from an explosion shook my room and sent a chill up my spine. It turned out that a suicide bomber had detonated his vest at the entrance of the city’s luxury five-star Serena Hotel, killing several guards and clearing the way for three others to breach the inner security and enter the hotel lobby.

A Norwegian journalist who was exercising in the gym was shot dead. A Filipino gym attendant, described as very friendly, was shot in the chest and died. When I got around to interviewing Lisa Gans, an American lawyer, who narrowly escaped the ordeal by hiding behind a desk in the lobby, she said she thought it was the end of her life.

The following day the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks and they threatened to hit upscale Kabul restaurants frequented by foreigners. L’Atmosphere, the city’s most popular eatery, closed it doors for a month. Boccacio, an Italian restaurant where I enjoyed many bowls of spinach and cottage cheese soup with bread baked in a brick stove, set up scanners and security gates almost overnight.

On the evening news that same day, Afghan authorities wasted no time in calling the attack what it was – a deadly and brazen act of terrorism. Could it have been anything other than terrorism

The objective was to kill, maim and destroy for no other purpose but to create an atmosphere of fear. The attackers targeted civilians, not politicians and certainly not military personnel. There was nothing strategic about the Serena. It was a soft target. The attackers achieved their objective. Every foreigner who was staying at the Serena fled the country the next day. Sadly, many of them were there to help the Afghan people rebuild their country that has seen nothing but war for 40 years.

Before I could return to my home in Toronto, shocking news (out of the land of my birth Guyana) of the Lusignan massacre filtered into my email inbox. For two weeks I scanned local news reports desperately looking for a diagnosis, something that would give me an indication of what had happened in a village I have visited on many occasions in the past. Politicians portrayed it as a senseless crime carried out by a gang led by a madman. Some said it was a crime spree carried out by a bunch of hooligans, thugs and bandits.

When I was growing up in 1970’s Albouystown, ‘choke and rob’ and ‘kick down doors’ were brazen acts of violence carried out by gangs of robbers. Sometimes they attacked wealthy jewellers and occasionally things went awry and people ended up dead if they refused to hand over their stash. At the end of the week, it did not add up to anything more than gangsterism sometimes in cahoots with law enforcement officials.

After comparing the Lusignan massacre to the many acts of terrorism, I’ve reported on for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), I have to conclude that Mr. Rondell Rawlins is not a robber and he is definitely not a gangster. He may have started out that way, but Guyanese authorities and the media need to give ‘Fine Man’ much more credit.

He is a terrorist and what he did at Lusignan was an act of terrorism.

If Operation Restore Hope – it should be Operation Restore Order -- is to have any hope of nailing him before he strikes again, it must first recognise the enemy for who he really is.

Using CCT pictures from the Serena hotel, Afghan authorities quickly apprehended one of the four attackers disguised as a police officer. He revealed the location of the Kabul safe house where the attack was planned. This in turn led authorities to a fifth member of the cell who was on the run south towards the lawless tribal border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan.  

The intelligence that was gathered hours after the attack, revealed the larger Taliban network behind it.

Pinpointing exactly who was behind the Serena attack was a feat of intelligence that may well be the crucial ingredient to preventing similar, but unfortunately, not further acts of terrorism.

There are many factors that motivate acts of terrorism. In the case of the Taliban, religion is certainly one among many reasons. Poverty, perceived crimes against one’s family or tribe, the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan, wealth, or a desire for political power, are all present to some degree or the other in the Taliban.

Regardless of whatever factors might have been behind Mr. Rawlins rampage, we may call it a ‘killing spree’ or a ‘senseless act of violence,’ but it hardly changes the fact that what he masterminded in Lusignan was an act of terrorism.

If Buxton is ‘Fine Man’s’ stomping ground, Guyana’s authorities should thank the heavens that it bears absolutely no resemblance to Pakistan’s tribal region. The longer authorities fail to bring this man and members of his cell to justice the more they risk the possibility of this unleashing a full-scale political insurrection making Guyana the battle ground of ‘tit for tat’ acts of terrorism with intense racial, political and class undertones.

This was published as an opinion piece in the Guyana Chronicle on February 11th 2008. http://www.guyanachronicle.com/ARCHIVES/archive%2011-02-08.html