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Fighting terrorism in EU needs stronger border security and refugees’ integration

15:06 | 21.11.2015 | Analytic


21 November 2015. PenzaNews. French prosecutors have announced the death of Abdel-Hamid Abu Oud, the alleged ringleader of the Paris terror attacks, during the raid in Saint-Denis on 18 November 2015.

Candles at Place de la Republique the day after 13 November 2015 Paris attacks. Photo: Wikipedia.org

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The French interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, said the member of the extremist group had played a decisive role in the Paris attacks on November 13 and was involved in four of the six terror plots that French intelligence services had foiled.

However, the situation remains tense in France – a state of emergency has been extended for three months.

According to French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, instead of bombings and mass executions the extremists could resort to larger attacks using other weapons.

“We must not rule anything out. I say it with all the responsibility. But we know and bear in mind that there is also a risk of chemical or bacteriological attacks,” the politician said during a session of the lower house of the national Parliament.

Commenting on the tragic events in France, Anthony Glees, Professor of Politics at the University of Buckingham and Director of its Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies (BUCSIS), compared them with the terrorist attack at Charlie Hebdo.

“It seems similar to the Charlie Hebdo attack of 7 January 2015, in that there was a core group of fighters supported by a wider group of accomplices. Currently there is a manhunt for these; one seems to have gone to Germany, others to Belgium. It was self-evidently coordinated – eight attacks within a time frame that had been carefully computed by the perpetrators to cause maximum confusion. We believe the eight included one person with a Syrian passport who entered the EU via Greece but others who were French. They will have been recruited to the IS cause, taken to Syria or Iraq to become IS fighters and then specially trained to execute this atrocity and infiltrated back into France. None of this could have taken place without careful coordination and management and clear and direct lines of communication between the ‘commandos’ in Paris and those they were obeying,” he said in an interview with PenzaNews agency.

The expert did not rule out potential connection of what happened with the migration crisis in the European Union.

“The policy of opening Germany’s doors to migrants from Arab North Africa, the Middle East and beyond, without careful registration and vetting, in the states who were the border into the Schengen area, of those wanting to come in to Europe lay not just Germany, and not just the Schengen area open to abuse but every one of the 28 EU states,” the professor noted.

According to him, this tragedy could entail significant political consequences.

“If someone claiming to be an asylum seeker, someone whom Angela Merkel will have welcomed without proper registration into Germany, should prove to have been a member of this jihadist terror group, I think Angela Merkel’s political position will become untenable. Many of her supporters think her policy vis-a-vis ‘asylum seekers’ of whom 50% are economic migrants and not people in fear of their lives, was a disaster for Germany, for Europe and for NATO. Equally I think Francois Hollande will not be re-electable when his term runs out,” the analyst explained.

In his opinion, the steps towards a safer Europe must include securing borders both within the EU and between the member states, and re-introducing border controls.

“The Lisbon Treaty made national security a matter for the member nations, not the EU overall and member states should cease trying to Europeanize their security problems. Equally there must be a development of modern and technically advanced interception and surveillance mechanisms; more data will have to be collected and some people will have to be monitored very closely indeed,” Anthony Glees said.

In turn, Rohan Gunaratna, Professor at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, Head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, stated that Paris is a turning point in the global fight against the IS.

“Paris was a slaughter by the IS to drive fear but it had the opposite effect. The French decided to strike back both against the IS core area and to hunt IS operatives and supporters in Europe. Until Paris, governments worldwide believed that the IS focus will be to build a caliphate in Iraq and Syria. The IS ambition is to create a caliphate worldwide,” the expert noted.

According to him, terrorists will try to attack France and other Western countries further.

“The IS will strike against its enemies by enlisting its cells in target countries, cells in neighboring countries, and by dispatching its own operatives from the core area. This terrorist organization has divided the world into three blocs of countries: those countries actively targeting the IS, those countries supporting the targeting countries and those countries that are neutral countries. France is in the first category. It has declared war against the IS so it will be a favored target of the IS,” Rohan Gunaratna added.

Asked about the potential connection between acts of terrorism and a migration crisis in the EU, he stressed that in the absence of reliable programs some migrants can be recruited by the Islamic State.

“The diaspora and migrant communities of Europe and Canada are not well integrated. They live in the West but they are driven by the developments in their homelands. Until they are integrated they can be radicalized and militarized by extremist and terrorist propaganda. If they are joined by new migrants fleeing from conflict arenas, the threat to Europe will grow. As such it is paramount to settle the new migrants away from the ethnic and religious enclaves and pockets of European societies,” the analyst said.

Meanwhile, Peter Talas, Director at the Centre for Strategic and Defense Studies of the National University of Public Service in Hungary, identified several reasons why France is a prime target of Islamist terrorism.

“It has a Muslim population large enough also to host a meaningful number of radicals and extremists, maybe reaching thousands in numbers, who may serve as human resources for terrorism. France is also a constant focal point of international media attention, therefore any attacks carried out there will get global visibility. Being a secular country, France is also a cultural symbol of Western civilization. And of course France participates in the air strikes carried out against Islamic State, making them a hated enemy of the IS,” the analyst said.

Following the Paris attacks, it is likely that extreme right-wing politicians will point to a connection between the European refugee crisis and increased terrorist threat, and they may be successful in building political capital on this, he said.

“But this is a false view and a very dangerous course to take. There had been Islamist terrorism in Europe already before the 2015 attacks and the massive inflow of migrants. But even if the Islamic State would be sending terrorists among the migrants, why should European societies turn against refugees and not against the Islamic State that might be sending the terrorists?” the Hungarian expert wondered.

Nevertheless, according to him, in the short term the tragedy will have political consequences mostly for the extreme right wing in Europe, strengthening their position.

“While in the long term European societies must face the unsolved puzzle of a more successful integration of European Muslims. Currently multiculturalism across many societies in Europe means the – often segregated, parallel – coexistence of communities with different cultural background, not their integrated cohabitation. Segregation, coupled with poverty and societal exclusion, provides a suitable nurturing ground for radicalization,” the analyst noted.

In his opinion, the European Union will only be able to fight terrorism successfully if it can act as a state.

“Therefore, it should have already created a joint, centralized European intelligence service and a counterterrorism center. And of course there is a need to take action against the Islamic State, but caution and restraint must be exercised in order to avoid the same mistakes we have made in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya,” Peter Talas added.

According to Mila Johns, Researcher of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, University of Maryland, the attacks on Paris are striking in terms of their sophistication.

“This is really the first coordinated attack in Europe by Islamic extremists and it represents a significant shift for the Islamic State. Previously, the IS had been content to inspire attacks by its supporters abroad but had not directed attacks from ‘headquarters’ before in the way that seems to have happened in Paris,” the analyst said.

From her point of view, the country’s leadership could not fail to know that France is a cherished goal for extremists.

“Given the Charlie Hebdo attack and the foiled attack on the train in August this year, France was obviously aware that it was a target of great interest from terrorist groups. It would only be logical that France’s involvement in the airstrikes against the Islamic State would bring the country into even starker relief as a target,” Mila Johns noted.

In her opinion, the attacks on Paris are going to trigger expanded European involvement in the coalition against IS.

“We’ve already seen an increase in French bombing strikes in Syria. I would also expect that the European Union as a whole will move towards greater integration in terms of security. If one or more of the attackers is confirmed to have come into Europe posing as a refugee, it will likely exacerbate the tensions within European societies over acceptance of those fleeing the conflict in the Middle East,” the expert said.

According to her, greater coordination amongst EU countries on laws criminalizing travel to fight in foreign conflicts or for terrorist-training purposes would be an important first step towards a safer Europe.

“A number of countries currently have such laws, but to be truly effective they must be EU-wide. Another crucial step would be to finalize and implement a Passenger Name Record (PNR) system across all EU nations. I would also expect to see increased efforts within countries to counter extremist messaging, promote alternative narratives, and focus on deradicalization measures,” Mila Johns concluded.

A series of terrorist attacks took place in Paris in late evening of 13 November 2015.

According to recent data, 130 people were killed and more than 350 wounded in the explosions near the Stade de France stadium and in the Comptoir Voltaire café, attacks at the Bataclan theatre, the Petit Cambodge and Carillon bar, and shooting at La Casa Nostra pizzeria and La Belle Equipe café.

The state of emergency in France has been extended for three months.

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