France in firing line with Louvre terror attack
The attack on a group of soldiers yards away from the world-famous Louvre Museum in Paris, which hit the headlines at the end of January, is another worrying example of the growing catalogue of terrorist attacks that have rocked France in recent years, says Security News Desk Guest Features Writer, Tim Compston.
From the attack on Nice and the Batalcan theatre, plus the offices of Charlie Hebdo, this onslaught has forced the country to maintain a state of emergency much longer than was originally envisaged. Back in December the country’s parliament voted once to keep these heightened security measures in place, this time until the middle of July which falls after the French elections.
In the case of the Louvre incident itself, this began when an Egyptian citizen, Abdullah Reda Refaei al-Hamamy, who had recently arrived in France, approached four soldiers who were patrolling the entrance to the Carrousel du Louvre shopping mall. The mall is situated under the museum proper. When prevented from bringing two backpacks he was carrying into the mall he proceeded to attack the soldiers with a machete while, apparently, shouting ‘Allahu Akba’ (‘God is Great’). The soldiers initially tried to fend him off physically but, ultimately, had to open fire to subdue their attacker. The assailant was critically injured and two of the soldiers were wounded during the encounter. Interestingly, the police in Paris later confirmed that no explosives were found in the backpacks, just some spray cans. Parallels have been drawn to another incident – a year earlier – where a Tunisian man targeted police officers outside a Paris police station with a knife. In this case the culprit was shot dead.
Although the hosting of Euro 2016 went smoothly for the French authorities, from a terrorism perspective, the tragedy over the summer in Nice served as another wake-up call. Since then France has continued to suffer from smaller scale incidents like at the Louvre, all of which serve to underline the severity of the ongoing threat. One of the most shocking acts of terror was, undoubtedly, the killing of a priest during a service in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, a fortnight on from Nice.
As is the case in other countries being targeted by terrorist groups like ISIS, including here in the UK, the attacks that come to fruition are only the tip of iceberg. Multiple plots are underway all the time and in France this was exemplified just the other week by the arrest of four people, including a 16-year-old girl, in Montpellier who, it is suspected, were seeking to carry out an attack. Suspicions were raised after they had bought acetone that can potentially be used to make bombs.
As pressure mounts on ISIS in Syria, and Iraq, the question is how many foreign fighters are likely to return with their extremist views reinforced and then proceed to wreak havoc at home? Certainly, the security services are vigilant to this threat. Sadly, even without the returnees from overseas it would appear that, where France is concerned, there are all too many radicalised individuals already in place who are willing to contemplate taking extreme action to further their cause.