A simple text message from my former TAG-E Team Commander with the words, “Terrorists have taken a café in Martin Place” was how I was initially alerted to the event. I immediately jumped online and began scouring every media outlet I could to be brought up to date with the siege and the circumstances surrounding it. I also began reaching out to friends and current members of the Regiment, as well as those serving on TAG-E, to see if there was any information I could gather for myself that the media was not yet reporting on.

The initial reporting was scarce, compounded by the fact that police negotiators had not made contact with the terrorist. Critical details such as the number of terrorists, the number of hostages, the types of weapons, and the objectives of the siege had not been confirmed. Even though the general motivations were clear, the attack itself did not fit the profile of a typical Islamic-State-inspired terrorist attack. In fact, the attack did not fit the profile of any modern Islamic extremist attack whatsoever, which provided for some interesting analysis.

The political goals of contemporary terrorist organisations, such as the Islamic State, Hamas, and al-Qaeda, are generally transformational in nature. This means that they are not subject to negotiation, and the only way in which they are achievable would be through the complete destruction of a particular regional state system. For instance, objectives such as the desire to replace the states of the Middle East, or even the globe, with the Caliphate, the desire to remove the leadership of Islamic and Arab countries which are viewed as corrupt, the removal of all foreign militaries from the Middle East, and the destruction of Israel, can all be viewed as transformational objectives.

Unlike terrorist organisations that are driven by nationalistic agendas—such as the Irish Republican Army (IRA), the Front de libération du Québec (FLA), or the Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA)—the ideological-driven objectives of contemporary Islamist extremist groups provide little or no room for negotiation. This rigidity guides these groups’ modi operandi, and has brought about the distinct implementation of tactics where death and destruction are the primary goals, rather than media exploitation and publicity for their cause. While the latter are certainly a critical aspect to any terrorist group’s campaign, Islamic extremism has seen these assume an almost permanent subsidiary function to the former.


Whilst ethno-nationalist terrorist groups are no strangers to violent tactics or indiscriminate killing, their motivations are generally a product of larger political issues within a state, and are centred on demands and injustices of disadvantaged groups. The main effort behind these conflicts are generally confined to the state or territory in which the dispute is taking place, although some conflicts have spilled over into neighbouring or nearby countries in order to further their specific agendas.

For instance, the conflict waged by the IRA against the British Government saw multiple attacks take place on the British homeland. Even so, the IRA’s objectives were centered on achieving Irish independence which, in comparison, was not anywhere near as transformational or utterly ridiculous as a global caliphate under one religion.

Similarly, the structure and MO’s of these two organisations couldn’t have been further apart. Whilst the IRA was highly centralized, with a clearly defined and military-inspired hierarchy, contemporary Islamic extremist groups are not. They are decentralised, franchised organisations any group or individual is able to claim an allegiance to, and carry out acts of violence on behalf of, anywhere in the world. Someone halfway around the world could blow themselves up in the name of al-Qaeda and their cause and ironically could have never met or spoken to a single AQ operative.