Attacks in Paris: France’s 9/11

14 November 2015 3:32 pm

Months after the deadly Islamic State and al-Qaida-inspired attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which left 17 people dead in Paris in January, the world today is in a state of shock with the news that at least 140 people were killed in east central Paris near its national stadium Stade de France in seven nearly simultaneous attacks.

About 100 victims were killed at the Bataclan Theatre when three alleged gunmen shot at them while keeping the crowd hostage. They were said to be killing them one by one. French police launched a rapid rescue assault on the hall. They found a horifying scene of carnage with 118 dead. Two terrorists were killed in the assault. One of the gunmen apparently shouted Allah Akbar before he died.

According to Agence France-Presse, this is the latest in a string of incidents in France this year with suspected links to radical Islam. Others include the three soldiers guarding a Jewish community centre in Nice on the French Riviera who were attacked by a knife-wielding man, the four young men aged 16 to 23, including a former soldier, who were arrested on charges of planning an attack on a military camp to behead an officer in the name of jihad, Yassin Salhi, 35, who killed and beheaded his boss Herve Cornara and displayed the severed head on the fence of a gas plant surrounded by Islamic flags, and finally, the two off-duty US servicemen and a friend who prevented a bloodbath on a high-speed Thalys train from Amsterdam to Paris when they tackled a man who opened fire on passengers. The gunman was identified as 25-year-old Moroccan national Ayoub El Khazzani, known to intelligence services for links to radical Islam.

There has been no claim of responsibility as yet and officials do not know who is responsible but several analysts are postulating that this is al-Qaeda, due to highly coordinated nature of attacks. But there are also news reports that several ISIS supporters celebrated the horror attacks attacks using the sick hashtag 'ParisIsBurning'. One said: "God is great and thank God for these lone wolf attacks. At least 100 hostages and countless wounded." His tweet was sent from the Kuwait port of Mina Abdulla, according to Twitter's location settings. Another added: "Oh God, burn Paris as you burned the Muslims in Mali, Africa, Iraq, Syria, and Palestine." Some fans even boasted London, Rome and Washington DC would hit by the next horror attacks.

This is France’s 9/11 but it’s more profound than what happened in America.

Consider this: France has lost more people to radical Islam than any other country. According to the French Senate, nearly half of European jihadists known to have travelled to territory held by the extremist Islamic State group are French. Just over 1,430 French people have made their way to Iraq and Syria, representing 47 percent of jihadists from Europe that are known and accounted for.

A report by the King’s College’s International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence France is only just behind countries like Tunisia and Saudi Arabia as the source for foreign fighters for Islamic state.

France’s 9/11 will create more soul searching in a country unable to prevent considerable numbers of the country’s 4.7m-strong Muslim community, or about 7.5 per cent of the population, from veering towards violent radicalism and jihad.

These are disaffected young men and women from a disadvantaged community frequently discriminated against in education, employment and housing. Muslims in France will now increasingly fear being associated with fanaticism and terror. We can expect populist, far-right groups to fuel more hatred.

Let’s be clear about one thing: terrorism has no religion. We remember the huge popular street demonstration, the largest since Paris was liberated in 1944, that was organised after terrorists targeted Charlie Hebdo and then a kosher shop, killing journalists, policemen and Jews. That demonstration showed a country, and world, united against extremists.

The French government will have to take steps to prevent the kind of social dislocation and alienation that those who orchestrated this latest atrocity are no doubt trying to provoke.

For the rest of us, what we are seeing now in France is a reminder of the realities of the 9/11 shockwaves still being felt around the world.