Friday, July 15, 2016

Bastille Day 2016

 The terrible Bastille Day terror attack in Nice that has claimed at least 84 lives suggests that the French security authorities are still struggling to come to terms with the sheer scale of the threat from Islamist extremists their country faces. 

This is the third large scale terror attack France has suffered since Islamist gunmen attacked the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in January last year, and the fact that the key suspect in last night’s attack was, as far as we understand, a French-Tunisian petty criminal known to the police indicates the French authorities need to improve their methods of monitoring potential Islamist terrorists. 

No doubt they had been quietly congratulating themselves on making sure the high profile Euro 2016 football tournament, which ended in Paris on Sunday, passed without any major act of terrorism taking place.

But the threat of a lone wolf attack – when a terrorist decides to launch their own attack using whatever means are available – is the nightmare scenario for security officials throughout Europe. In Britain we suffered our own lone wolf attack when two Islamist extremists hacked to death Fusilier Lee Rigby on a south London street with machetes in 2013. 

Using a lorry as an instrument of mass terrorism is another example of how easy it is for those intent on killing and maiming the maximum number of people to achieve their nefarious ends.

This is not the first time lorries have been used to commit acts of mass terrorism. Iranian-backed terrorists regularly used suicide truck bombs to attack their targets during the Lebanese civil war during the 1980s, and more recently such improvised weapons have been used to devastating effect in the brutal civil wars currently raging in Iraq and Syria. 

But the fact that a common criminal was able to hire a lorry and drive it through crowds of innocent revellers on Nice’s packed Promenade des Anglais last night illustrates both how easy it is for terrorist fanatics to commit mass murder, and how difficult it is for the security authorities both in France and elsewhere to prevent them from so doing.

Certainly, as more becomes known about the man responsible for last night’s attack, the French authorities will be under renewed pressure to explain why a key potential suspect like this was not subjected to proper monitoring, and also to explain what further measures can be taken to try to make sure than France is better protected from similar attacks in future.