A series of failed bombings at popular, crowded eating places suggests a disturbing pattern that hasn’t percolated into public awareness yet. The attempts underscore the fact that hotels and restaurants, places where people gather in close proximity, are attractive targets for those aiming to cause mayhem. And their similarity suggests a unified plan of sorts, although the failed attacks are usually attributed to “lone wolves.” The most recent failed attacks include:

  • Just this week, a popular Amsterdam pub was shut down and several streets in the surrounding area closed after a small explosive device was discovered on the premises. That’s all that has been reported officially. Unofficially, newspapers are reporting the site was the Palladium cafe, a popular tourist destination off the famous Leidse square in central Amsterdam. Bystanders gave conflicting reports, with several saying a grenade was found inside the restaurant and one saying the grenade was thrown inside the restaurant. No further details are available. READ MORE
  • Last week, a man threw an “explosive pyrotechnic device” into a crowded Cheesecake Factory restaurant in Old Pasadena, filling the restaurant with smoke and causing customers to flee but resulting in no injuries. Pasadena police reported that at about 6 p.m. a man opened the main entrance doors to the Cheesecake Factory and tossed inside what appeared to be a homemade pyrotechnic explosive device containing gunpowder. They described the suspect as Hispanic or Middle Eastern in appearance. READ MORE
  •  In November, UPI reported that one person was in custody after suspicious devices were found at three vandalized Starbucks, including one that detonated and caused minimal damage to a franchise in southeast Albuquerue. No information about the suspect has been released, but the incident is reminiscent of two other attacks earlier in 2016, both involving Starbucks and bombs. READ MORE

The Starbucks incident was reminiscent of two other attacks earlier in 2016, both involving Starbucks and bombs for which the terrorist group ISIS claimed responsibility. One occurred at the Brussels, Belgium, airport and one in Jakarta, Indonesia. In the Brussels attacks, which killed 34 people, one of the bombs was said to have been detonated near a Starbucks. In the Jakarta attack last January, an explosion inside a Starbucks drove patrons outside, where they were met by gunfire.

Although as yet there is no evidence the failed attacks are related to each other, their similarity is puzzling. And although no perpetrators have been identified, it is tempting to speculate they might have a common source of inspiration. In fact, the New York Times recently published a lengthy investigation about a confusing barrage of “enabled” or remote-controlled attacks guided by Islamic State operatives who never step foot in the targeted country. The operatives’ only connection to the would-be attacker is the Internet. In the most basic enabled attacks, according to the Times, Islamic State handlers acted as confidants and coaches, coaxing recruits to embrace violence. READ MORE

Venezuelan passport scandal: CNN and CNN en Español teamed up in a year-long joint investigation that uncovered serious irregularities in the issuing of Venezuelan passports and visas, including allegations that passports were given to people with ties to terrorism. The investigation involved reviewing thousands of documents, and conducting interviews in the U.S., Spain, Venezuela and the United Kingdom. READ MORE 

International meeting focuses on food supply threat: Strengthening the capacity of law enforcement to prevent and respond to a terrorist attack on food supplies was the focus of an international meeting at INTERPOL’s General Secretariat headquarters. Co-organized by the FBI and INTERPOL, the symposium was attended by 110 representatives from law enforcement and regulatory agencies from 25 member countries who focused on the need for early coordination and integration of their efforts and resources. READ MORE

ISIS fighters returning home, pose challenge: As coalition and allied forces push through Mosul, Iraq, and close in on the Islamic State’s capital of Raqqa, Syria, Arab states are bracing what some are calling a “disaster”: waves of ISIS fighters returning back home. READ MORE