EURO 2016 and terrorism: French authorities will consider previous attacks

One can say the EURO 2016 it is an attractive target for any terrorist but on the other hand the high level of security measures will probably discourage many from trying anything. So in general what will be focus of security services regarding EURO 2016 and why? Read few comments.

David Lowe, Principal Lecturer, Law School, Liverpool John Moores University

Regarding security measures the French authorities will consider previous attacks. It is very likely they will be preparing for a small arms attacks similar to what we saw in Paris November 13th last year and the January attacks at Charlie Hebdo. Small arms attacks are popular with terrorist groups, as we saw with ISIS attacks in Tunisia last year too. They are relatively easy to plan and carry out and they give the maximum effect in both casualties and in the terror effect. Suicide bomber attacks are also another potential type of attack that can be used. Again we saw this in Paris last November as well as in Brussels in March this year. In relation to Islamist groups, suicide bomb attacks are frequently used, one issue to assess is how they will carry this out. It could be by individuals wearing a bomb vest or driving a vehicle with explosives into a crowd or location where many people will have congregated. Of course there is the potential for a bomb planted in a static location. This form of attack is easier to deal with as areas and stadiums can be swept for these devices.

Without doubt security outside stadiums will be tightly controlled with strict entry requirements, similar to what we saw at the 2012 London Olympics. Another issue is how to police areas like the fan zones and the cities where the games are being played that will attract thousands of supporters on any given day the tournament is running. France is deploying 90,000 police and security personnel to protect citizens. In addition to this, intelligence will play a major part. On the 7th June 2016 Europol announced that it is placing 200 of its staff to assist the French policing agencies by ensuring the rapid exchange of any relevant intelligence/ information. Those policing on the ground will be deployed at strategic locations and no doubt instructed what to look for.

It is not so simple a task to carry out any effective terrorist attack such as those Europe has witnessed over the last 18 months, they do take a degree of planning and requires a support network. Those who are on intelligence systems suspected of supporting terrorists will be looked at. Of course this does not stop an individual who will try to carry out some form of attack, but if they do without any planning or support they will not be as effective, but there is the potential for there to be causalities as seen in the Munich area last month

Regarding a plan of action the French authorities will have should a terrorist incident occur, unfortunately they have got very recent experience of dealing with terrorist attacks. Following the previous attacks they suffered, one important task that will have been carried out is the debrief, from which to learn what went well and what did not go so well and develop contingency plans accordingly. Linked to the measures they will put in place over the coming weeks where cordons and the like will have been thought out and strategically placed, a response both by the police and the other emergency services will have been carefully planned to meet the different type of attack that is potentially likely to occur. This can be from changing the response by police firearms units, to having evacuation zones to treat injured or simply to herd people to keep them safe thereby minimizing casualties. There may be plain clothes officers mingling with the supporters to identify anyone known to be a potential threat who may also be mingling with the supporters.

I think the key thing fans will have to expect is to attend the stadium early before kick off as the security procedure will be strict and time consuming. No doubt there will be high uniform police presence and supporters should not to be overly concerned about this as the police will be there to deter terrorist attacks (as well as any potential violence from rival supporters) and to keep supporters safe. There may also be further security checks on public transport such as the Metro services. I think we have seen over the years incremental widening of security be it football tournaments or events like the Olympic Games. While there is a threat of a possible terrorist attack, one also has to look at the number of attacks that have occurred to those that have been prevented in Europe and likelihood of an attack occurring is still remote. France is on such a high security alert and has kept its state of emergency, many of the locations linked to the tournament will be hard for terrorists to penetrate. You cannot be complacent, as the Provisional IRA said during the Irish Troubles, the state has to be lucky 100% of the time, the terrorist only once. That said, the more vigilant the police and security staff are along with the supporters and the more precautions that are put in place, the less likely we are to see a terrorist incident. In countering terrorism, prevention is the sole aim.

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