As the world comes to terms with the horrendous details of the attacks in Nice, one cannot help but feel a mixture of anger, dread, and shame.
A French-Tunisian man mowed down onlookers as they observed the end of the fireworks display on the picturesque promenade. For 2km, the driver indiscriminately plowed through the crowds before gunning many more down.
So far, 84 have been confirmed dead, with many more injured. As you will probably know, Bastille Day is a national French celebration, commemorating the Storming of Bastille during 1789 – a key part of the French Revolution. It was supposed to be a proud day for people to celebrate their nationality in a carnival atmosphere, instead, it was a massacre.
The occasion draws large numbers of families, leaving dozens of families ripped apart – once the identities of those victims come to light, it will undoubtedly consist of many children.
France is the subject of another attack of seismic proportions. Just 7 months on from the November Paris attacks , the people of France are yet again reeling.
Was Euro 2016 a security decoy?
My initial reflection on the abhorrent events is that the attack was carried out in the shadow of the Euro 2016 tournament. French security and intelligence had been bolstered for the Euros, with the state of emergency allowing regular patrols of armed troops. President Hollande had warned the nation to remain vigilant during this time. The competition itself passed without terror. But the Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, demanded the security forces to remain on the highest level of alert, after the event subsided.
To me, last night’s atrocity has the hallmarks of a deliberately timed attack which sought to capitalise on the post-competition lull. An attack during the tournament would be too obvious, too difficult to execute. This individual, (most likely – group), has purposely exploited the combination of different national conditions:
the false sense of security post-Euro 2016 + the joyous Bastille Day sentiment.
As the enquiries begin, plenty of attention will be directed at the French security forces. The barbaric attack, I suggest, was extremely difficult to prevent. It shows that whoever is responsible, most likely ISIS, is able to make a lethal weapon of almost anything. There is nothing in place to prevent any human from driving a ten-tonne lorry into a crowd. You cannot plan for that. Last night resembles the lone-wolf Orlando Night Club Shooting where Omar Mateen killed 49 revellers.
France will continue to mourn from Paris, and Nice, for years to come. President Hollande has today extended the state of emergency, banning protests, school trips, and unnecessary large public gatherings. It is up to the international community to assist France in its intelligence gathering, and I also believe that Britain should offer extra forces to strengthen the security.
Politically, the two attacks could have some stark ramifications. The upcoming French Election will be dominated by security guarantees, with each side competing to represent the national feelings of anger. If anything, the attacks will invoke support for a more rigid approach to terrorism, and perhaps a less tolerant approach to immigration. Marine Le Pen’s National Front Party may well be the primary benefactor from the anger – you can understand why.
Yet, it must be reminded that even in times of tragedy, rationality must prevail. A vote for Le Pen, or the far right, is a dangerous sudden lurch in the midst of anger.
People flocked to twitter last night to use the hashtag #PortesOuvertesNice offering safe places for those fleeing the scene. France needs to remain unified in defiance during this time, whilst coming down hard on those involved.