Terrorism in Europe: What’s (probably) next after the attack on Charlie Hebdo

I know we should be careful to conclude anything at this stage, but what do you make out of these attacks in France? From your point of view, do you see an indication that this could be a bigger terrorist operation linked to AQAP (ISIS, maybe)., perhaps even a sleeper cell (could they be more)? Read few comments.

Bart Schuurman, Researcher, Leiden University’s Centre for Terrorism and Counterterrorism in The Hague

I think the most important thing to emphasize right now is that we know very little for certain. I am sure the next couple of days and weeks will bring new findings to light, but right now a lot of what we’re hearing and reading is somewhat speculative. That being said, there appear to be indications that the two CH attackers claimed to have been linked to AQAP, while the individual who kidnapped people in the Jewish grocery story claimed an IS link.

Again, it is very hard to know what any of this means. We should remember that organizations like IS and AQAP will likely claim these attacks or their involvement for opportunistic reasons; to make themselves seem as powerful and capable as possible. As it stands, there appears to be evidence that the CH attackers had links to AQAP and one of them may have met al-Awlaki. This link is certainly feasible; CH was on AQAP’s hit list for a longer period of time and numerous French citizens have traveled to fight with the jihadists in Yemen. But did these attackers act on their own behalf or were they instructed in any way by AQAP/IS? That is something only the future will tell.

Could there be more? Well I certainly hope not. However, given that there’s been a series of incidents in France late last year involving people stabbing police officers and running over pedestrians with their car, followed by the deadly events of the past couple of days, there is certainly a risk that other jihadist incidents will follow. Unfortunately, copy cats might be ‘inspired’ by the carnage wrought in Paris and its surroundings and attempt something similar. However, we should be very careful not to contribute to any unnecessary panic. For instance, the Dutch government has seen no reason to raise the terrorist threat level after what happened in France. But I think everyone, and especially the French, will have to be extra vigilant in the weeks to follow. Hopefully we don’t see to much anti-Muslim backlash as well.

Tobias Feakin, ‎Director, International Cyber Policy Centre & Senior Analyst, Australian Strategic Policy Institute

It’s hard at the moment to make absolute conclusions on the background until we know more. However, French authorities have released that the two brothers had links to Yemen and the younger brother travelled to Yemen when al-awlaki was still at large. AQAP has been the only AQ affiliate with both the intent and the capability to launch attacks on the ‘West’ so this would illustrate that it’s plausible that they are involved.

ISIS have tried to claim responsibility for the attack but we can’t be certain that they have involvement either. ISIS are opportunistic in The way they look to ‘adopt’ attacks for their own propaganda, example being the Monis attack in Sydney where weeks after the attacks they accept the attack as being on their behalf despite ISIS supporters ridiculing it at the time.

The two brothers look to have been radicalised before ISIS were a factor, therefore, it seems likely that there is more AQ involvement in what went on, especially when we see the number of individuals involved, these kinds of networked groups were a calling card of AQ in the 2000s.

The danger we have as many Intel Chiefs from Europe are consistently warning is that there are many involved in extremist Islamist movements in Europe so the likelihood of some kind of attack is there. France has had in the region of 1000 citizens travelling to Iraq and Syria to be involved in the fighting there so there are clear worries that this could happen again.

Aaron MannesResearcher at Laboratory for Computational Cultural Dynamics, University of Maryland

We have conflicting claims that this was an AQAP operation and an ISIS operation. While the attackers were inspired by these groups, it is not clear whether or not there was external direction to this operation. It is also difficult to know if this is part of a larger plot and events could prove this analysis wrong. Nonetheless, it is unlikely to be part of a larger plot. While French intelligence was caught off-guard by these attacks, they are nonetheless highly capable organizations. Stopping a specific attack requires a combination of skill and luck. However, as events unfolded it became clear that French intelligence knew a great deal about the perpetrators. Undoubtedly, suspect associates of the perpetrators will receive visits in the next few days to forestall follow-on attacks. If there were to be more attacks, they would have been launched already. Further more attacks may not be necessary. With a relatively small terror attack, the murderers shut down a great city and threw a nation into panic. Their goal was terror, and terror is what they achieved.

Max Abrahms, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Department of Political Science, Northeastern University

Throughout this year, analysts have worried about jihadists from the West linking up with terrorist groups like Islamic State and Al Qaeda in Syria, Iraq, and other conflict zones. The attacks in France seem to have bolstered that concern. I expect more attacks along the same lines. About 200 jihadists from Syria and Iraq are believed to have returned to France, though the number may actually be higher. Furthermore, many terrorists haven’t actually travelled to conflict zones or met with organizational leaders, but are still inspired by their rhetoric.

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