France has become primary European target for ISIS

Sunday 17/07/2016
Flags flying at half-staff in memory of Bastille Day truck attack in Nice

The ignoble act that marred Bastille Day festivities in the south­ern French resort city of Nice claimed more than 80 lives when a lorry was driven into a crowd of people celebrating French National Day. The driver was identified as a 31-year-old French- Tunisian resident of Nice. He was shot and killed by police trying to stop the carnage.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. How­ever, knee-jerk reaction would be to suspect this could be the work of jihadists who have carried out a number of attacks in France as well as in neighbouring Belgium.

France has been under a state of emergency since the November terrorist attacks in Paris and one of the first questions raised follow­ing the attack in Nice is how was a truck allowed near such a large crowd? Crowds had gathered on the seafront Promenade des Anglais to watch fireworks celebrating Bastille Day.

Understandably, tensions will run high in this great city and throughout France. Chances are innocent Arab citizens of France, or legal residents, who have absolute­ly no sympathy for the murderous thug who carried out the attack, could suffer harassment and abuse.

We owe that much to the memory of the victims of the Bastille Day massacre not to wrongfully accuse people just because of their faith or the colour of their skin. The result of such behaviour would only wedge a further gap between com­munities across the country. This would grant terrorists a dividend they do not deserve.

French police forces will be stretched thin in the weeks to come, making it easier for people whose aim is to create chaos to act out their intentions. France’s political leadership must not lose track of who the real enemy is and not give further satisfaction to those who wish to create mayhem in Europe by allowing mob justice to take place. As a first step, French President François Hollande said he would deploy units of the French Army.

The attack in Nice, much like the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, establishes a sombre landmark in the history of terror­ism. As the terrible incidents played out in southern France the night of July 14th have shown, terrorists no longer require aeroplanes to kill people in large numbers, when this can be done using a simple truck.

This is one of the most barbaric modus operandi used by a terrorist.

Focus must be given at the high­est levels on how to eradicate this disease at the source. This means concentrated efforts by intelligence services — domestic and interna­tional — combined with tactical military action when needed in conjunction with international and Arab leaders. Many of these leaders had to deal with terrorism in their own countries and were unanimous in condemning the attack.

A statement from al-Azhar, Sunni Islam’s leading centre of learning, said the “vile terrorist attack” con­tradicted Islam and called for “unit­ing efforts to defeat terrorism and rid the world of its evil.” Tunisia denounced the attacker, whom po­lice said held joint French-Tunisian citizenship, as having committed an act of “extreme cowardice” and expressed solidarity with France against the “scourge of terrorism”.

Shawki Allam, a prominent Egyptian Muslim cleric, vigorously castigated the assailant, saying: “People who commit such ugly crimes are corrupt of the Earth and follow in the footsteps of Satan… and are cursed in this life and in the hereafter.” The six Gulf Arab states issued a joint statement “strongly” condemning the “terrorist” act in Nice.

Saudi Arabia denounced the “heinous terrorist” act, adding that it stands in “solidarity” with France and would “cooperate with it in confronting terrorist acts in all their forms”.

UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan said: “This heinous terrorist crime makes it imperative for all to work decisively and without hesitation to counter terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.”

Such cooperation could help the world community answer a crucial question: How does a young man — whatever his motives — end up losing his humanity and all sense of the humanity of others?