Nice attack: Why France is prime target for terrorists

If the Nice attack turns out to be the work of Islamic terrorists, then France could very well become the number one target.

Written by Abhimanyu Chakravorty | New Delhi | Updated: July 15, 2016 6:42 pm
A woman places a candle during a vigil to honor victims of the Bastille Day tragedy in Nice, France, in Sydney, Australia, Friday, July 15, 2016. World leaders are expressing dismay, sadness and solidarity with France over the attack carried out by a man who drove truck into crowds of people celebrating France's national day in Nice. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith) A woman places a candle during a vigil to honor victims of the Bastille Day tragedy in Nice, France, where 84 people were killed and several others were injured. (Source: AP)

Once again, after a hiatus of eight months, France has been struck by suspected Islamic terrorists. Time after time, France bears the brunt of terrorism with more people leaving to join the ISIS and other jihadi ranks in Iraq and Syria. According to data released by The International Centre of Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (based on data from second half of 2014) as published in the Wall Street Journal, nearly 1200 people had joined jihadist ranks from France alone in Iraq and Syria, followed by Germany and Britain.

Read | Nice Truck attack: As it happened

And now, a man driving a truck, reportedly a French citizen of Tunisian origin, ploughed into a crowd that was celebrating Bastille Day in Nice along the picturesque French Riviera, killing at least 84 and injuring hundred others. This attack comes just eight months after Islamic State-linked extremists killed nearly 130 people at the Bataclan concert hall and other sites across Paris.

French police secure the area as the investigation continues at the scene near the heavy truck that ran into a crowd at high speed killing scores who were celebrating the Bastille Day July 14 national holiday on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France, July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard French police secure the area as the investigation continues at the scene near the heavy truck that ran into a crowd at high speed killing scores who were celebrating the Bastille Day July 14 national holiday on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France, July 15, 2016. (Source: Reuters)

Islamic State sympathisers are already reveling on social media after the attack, with one tweet saying, “The number of those killed had reached 62 french crusaders and sinful infidels in Nice, France.. God is great, God is great.” However, if this attack turns out to be the work of Islamic terrorists, then France could very well become the number one target.

Read | France attack: A white truck, bodies fly, and a world of tears in Nice

The question is, even though Islamic extremists consider the US as their greatest enemy, why France again?

France has a long, complex history with the Muslim world. With a population of around 66 million, the country has a 7-9 per cent (approx) Muslim population who are mostly immigrants from North Africa and their descendants. After France conquest of Algeria in 1830, it seemingly considered Muslim Africa as its own backyard. During the World War I, and after the country conquered Syria and Lebanon as well, many Frenchmen settled in North Africa, while many North Africans came to France looking for employment in new factories. Many immigrant Africans settled in poor areas of Lyon, Paris and up North.

In post-industrial France, many factories and industries shut down resulting in widespread unemployment. However, the settlers stayed back. The subsequent generations thereafter harboured massive discontent for France for their exclusion from the French society, and the country did not do a great job at integrating them. These settlements, known pejoratively as banlieues, are believed to have become a significant recruitment pool for jihadist elements like ISIS and al Qaeda, say experts.

Read | Behind Nice attack, a Caliphate in retreat 

ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF INJURY OR DEATH - A body is seen on the ground July 15, 2016 after at least 30 people were killed in Nice, France, when a truck ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday July 14. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard REUTERS/Eric Gaillard TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY A body is seen on the ground July 15, 2016 after at least 30 people were killed in Nice, France, when a truck ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday July 14. (Source: Reuters)

Largely symbolic measures against Muslims, such as the 2010 ban on wearing face veils in public, also added to the simmering anger.

Perhaps, what’s immediately relevant to know is France President Hollande had decided on Thursday, a day before Bastille Day celebrations, to redeploy the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier this fall to step up the fight against the Islamic State group and suggested an increase in ground troops for training and support to take back Mosul, in northern Iraq. “We must strike and destroy those who aggressed us here in two sets of attacks last year,” Hollande had said.

This, coupled with an already intensive airstrikes in IS-held territories in Iraq and Syria beginning last September has probably fanned rabid hatred for France from jihadists. What is more revealing is the fact that the Islamic State has consistently lashed out at France for its current policies that it considers un-Islamic.

In a string of statements after the Bataclan Theatre attack, the IS had said France remains the primary target. “France and those who follow its path must know that they remain the principal targets of the Islamic State,” read the IS statement. It also referred to Paris as a “capital of prostitution and obscenity”. In fact, one of the witnesses in the Bataclan theatre attack, according to the New York Times, also reportedly heard a terrorist saying,”This is because of all the harm done by Hollande to Muslims all over the world.”

Some experts on terrorism had argued a year ago about whether it should intervene in the Iraq and Syria crises claiming that the Islamic State posed no threat to the world. The carnage in Nice just goes to show how misleading the analysis was.

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  1. A
    Aryan
    Jul 16, 2016 at 12:05 am
    Suspect, which had been killed by French armed woman later, was not a supporter of any islam source and islam.lt;br/gt;All world m media referred to the primary sources -- the French internet m media, which do publish true related to an ordinary murder never; the French m media produce the most aggressive views against islam.lt;br/gt;To be registered in France does not mean French.lt;br/gt;There was no any event, which could be qualified as "terrorizm" or "rerroristic act" on 14JUL2016 in Nice, France. The French police [against their Francois Holland] refused to qualify the 14JUl2016 Nice event as "terrorism".
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      ashok s
      Jul 16, 2016 at 12:50 am
      France and other colonists paying price for their deeds.reap what you sow.
      Reply
      1. V
        vidya
        Jul 15, 2016 at 2:39 pm
        Christianity is a worse threat because because of the sophisticated sophistry of the language of their proponents. The terror that the Americans unleashed in Iraq telling lies about the weopens of m destruction, the dela action in Rwanda too late to help the minority Tutsis, joining hands of the pope and church with Hitler..countless examples. On a less dramatic level is the annoying and dishonest way in which they indulge in proselytizing breaking indigeneous cultures. Most dangerous is the way they revere faith as though in can take the place of rationality and truth. For Islam to calm down, Christianity needs a reality check.
        Reply
        1. S
          Siv
          Jul 15, 2016 at 1:39 pm
          As usual, the article blames the victims than the perpetrators or their ideology. Why not probe the two words the marauder shrieked in his truck?
          Reply
          1. J
            Jaideep Gupta
            Jul 15, 2016 at 1:54 pm
            Indian Express you are the champion of Muslims causes. so I am going to stop reading your paper slowly.
            Reply
            1. J
              Jaideep Gupta
              Jul 15, 2016 at 1:47 pm
              Not only France but the w Europe is under attack from Islamic terrorism. You Indian Express try not to mess up the w thing.
              Reply
              1. F
                Frank
                Jul 15, 2016 at 12:38 pm
                Good historic perspective
                Reply
                1. J
                  Jio
                  Jul 15, 2016 at 11:56 am
                  Shame on this site trying to put the blame of France itself for the attack!
                  Reply
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