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Lone-Wolf or Low-Tech Terrorism? Emergent Patterns of Global Terrorism in Recent French and European Attacks
According to media reports, seven accomplices of Tunisian-borne French resident Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel—the man who drove a 20-ton truck into Bastille Day crowds in Nice—have been charged with aiding in “murder by a group with terror links” and violating weapons laws “in relation to terror groups.” The existence of such accomplices would seem to contradict initial news reports denying any
BRUSSELS, Belgium—As the escalator rises out of the Molenbeek subway station, the first sounds you hear are children laughing and calling out to one another. With entrances to the metro at either end of a row of townhouses, you are left with the unlikely impression of a village square. Here young children ride bicycles and teach each other to balance on hover boards. Older men play cricket, some in button-down shirts, some wearing South Asian salwar kameez. A younger boy practices bowling (that’s “pitching” in cricket) as he watches them.
Last October, before the Islamic State’s terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, I argued that the security risks from Syrian refugees are, in general, low, but the potential ones are considerable if the crisis is handled poorly. In particular, I worried that refugees with no links to terrorists would be let into the West in a fit of generosity, but then ignored, mistreated, and marginalized over time – making them potential supporters of terrorism.
The attacks in Brussels on Tuesday morning are a harrowing reminder that global threats to liberal democracy are born domestically as well as abroad. It is incumbent upon lawmakers in Europe and in the United States to respond to concerns about public safety and to put forth a viable strategy to combat violent extremism over the long-term.
Editor's Note: This piece originally appears on Markaz.
Legislators in France are watching closely the fight between Apple and the FBI, but, in the meantime, the French National Assembly has amended a pending counterterrorism bill to impose heavy penalties on technology companies that fail to cooperate in decrypting communications relating to terrorism investigations.
On Friday, February 19, the Constitutional Council upheld two articles of the state-of-emergency law—meeting bans and warrantless searches—as constitutional, but struck down a provision allowing the police to copy data when conducting such searches. Separately, the French Parliament extended the state of emergency through the end of May.
The National Assembly voted this week to adopt an amendment that would enshrine the state of emergency in the French Constitution and extend denaturalization to dual-nationals born in France who are convicted of terrorism.
The vote in the National Assembly was 317 for, 199 against, with 55 abstentions. The Senate is expected to take up the bill in mid-March—for constitutional reforms, a four-week delay is required between reviews by each house.
Editor's Note: The 2015 Islamic State attacks in Paris highlighted not only the terrorist threat to Europe, but also the many European failings in intelligence and border security. Marc Hecker of the French Institute for International Relations identifies the wide range of problems Europe faces and the need for more resources, more harmonization, and less free riding.