Monday, 18 July 2016

FRANCE: Bastille Day Attacker-a new breed of terrorists

The terror attacks in France have shaken the world. Conversations have shifted from disbelief to disgust and from mourning to uncertainty. In fact, France, a country with large Muslim communities, has become the ''ideological battlefield. The situation underscores the fact that France needs a new security, social, political debate. 

Despite being in high alert for terrorism attacks, France is the country most affected by terrorism with the majority of the attacks since 2012. These are terrorist incidents/attacks in France since 2012: 

On March 2012: a French Algerian killed three soldiers, a teacher and three young students at Jewish School in Toulouse. He was later shot dead;
In May 2013, a Muslim converted Alexandre Dhaussy stabbed a French soldier in the neck in Paris. The soldier survived the attack;
In December 2014: French-Burundi born attacked several police officers at a station in ''Joue les Tours'', while shouting: Allah- Wakbar'. He was later shot dead;
In 7 January 2015: Said and Chérif Kouachi shot dead 12 people at the office of satirical magazine: Charlie Hebdo in Paris;
On 8 January 2015: Amedy Coulibaly killed a policewoman before entering a Jewish supermarket in Paris where he shot dead 4 others. Both brothers were later shot dead by police;
In June 2015: in an chemical factory near Grenoble, one man was beheaded and several others were injured;
In August 2015: three off-duty American marines overpowered an armed gunman on a high-speed train from Amsterdam to Paris. Three people including the suspect were injured. The Americans and several other passengers held the man down until police arrived. He was later arrested;
In November, 13, 2015, more than 130 people were dead as men armed with Kalashnikovs and grenades carried out a series of attacks at restaurants, in Bataclan Concert Hall and outside ''Stade de France'' in Paris;
In  June 2016, a police officer and his wife, a police secretary, were stabbed to death inside their home near Paris by a man who pledged allegiance to Islamic State;

Then last Friday, June 14 2016, on French National Day, commonly called: ''Bastille Day'', a recluse, a loner, a divorced father of three, French national, with Tunisian origins, Mohammed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, smashed a truck into a crowd of revelers enjoying a ' Bastille Day fireworks display, in French resort of Nice, killing at least 84 and scores of injured. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Saturday Attack.

When French are forced to live in fear, as they again had to do in these days of terror in Nice, they often comfort themselves with the notion that Syria and Iraq are the home of terrorists or of those who join the Islamic State(radicalized Muslims). But as the French learn more about the ''Bastille Day'' attacker, this line of argumentation starts falling apart, because Mohammed Lahouaiej Bouhlel was not one of these 1,400 French French citizens that have joined the self proclaimed Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. He didn't wear a beard; He did not appear to have dreamed of virgins in paradise and reports even suggest that he shared his time between work, nightclubs, gym and salsa sessions. He was not interested in religion.  He was not radicalized, or pledged allegiance to the Islamist State online. He bought his 7.65mm automatic pistol( the one he shot the crown with) from Albanian couple.

Bouhlel, was born in Tunisia in 1985 and had a French residency permit. The neighbors describe him as an ordinary man, always very smart, with the same haircut, as George Clooney, depressed, unstable. They put this down to his marital and financial problems. Bouhlet's other neighbors claim that they did not even know that he was a Muslim until after the attack.

Although he had previous convictions for armed theft, conjugal violence and threatening behavior, he had no  known links with terrorism and was not under surveillance. Residents of Msaken, Bouhlel's native town in Tunisia claim that he was born in n non-practicing Muslim family. He did not go to the mosque, let alone pray. They describe him as sporty, shy, distant, a very normal guy.

From a guy next door to Bastille Day terror attacker, that kind of quick transformation is almost disturbing because French have long believed that they have been more successful at accepting/integrating Muslims than the rest of Europe. French were ( at leat until now) less afraid that integrated/westernized Muslims would suddenly start turning against the country. They remained faithful that the appeal of ''les valeurs républicaines''( France Republican values) would be enough -- why, they seemed to ask, the guy next door would want to plan the French nightmare? The French should register now that their faith in their ability to successfully integrate Muslims/immigrants is not as foolproof as they often believe

Having argued so, Bouhlel might have been motivated more by a desire to commit suicide than by an Islamist ideology, despite the Islamic State claim that it ordered the attack, describing him as a ''soldier of Islam''. It is plausible that Bouhlel may have been a suicide case who decided to make his suicide look like an Islamist attack.

The Nice terrorist attack paints a distinct picture of a new breed of terrorists who are disillusioned with they lives, suicidal, would kill to make it look like terrorism attack. In the Internet age/Information age we are living, extremist ideas can also influence French Muslims who on the surface appear to be perfectly integrated/westernized or non- radicalized. They are not immune from the radical thought.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Investigative Journalist
Political Analyst/Writer
World Affairs Expert