19 terror attacks in Paris since 2003 is a number that buzzes off the (in)security alarm in the European Union and across the world. Absolutely no place on Earth is safe these days, except Syria- the den of ISIS.
But what is the reason this small-scale terror organization is spreading its poison so effectively and efficiently? It has turned out to be an omniscient force that has a strong presence on the Internet and masterminding blasts and attacks across the world.
What is the reason that State defence mechanisms are failing in front of a group of maniacs who believe that all other religiobs, sects and belief are against Islam and anything Un-Islamic should be annihilated.
France's internal security threats are humungous, thanks to the poor information sharing among intelligence agencies. An equally inefficient system to track suspects across international and open borders and a long list of homegrown extremists add to the country's laxity. Interestingly, the attackers hopped freely and frequently over the unguarded European Union borders.
Needless to say, the Paris attackers took these to their advantage and effortlessly created a macabre of bloodshed.
The Cyber security too is perforated, given the extent to which the extremists have been influencing the minds of youth across the globe through the Internet.
And as Jean-Charles Brisard, chairman of the Paris-based Center for the Analysis of Terrorism rightly pointed out, "We lack the most obvious tools to deal with this threat. We're blind."
Comparing the security system with the US
Unlike US, which had upped its guard after the 9-11 attacks, France and primarily Europe have been seen doing a patchwork of security strengthening that came only after an attack. Consider the two attacks in Paris in 2015, Copenhagen shootings and a foiled attack on a passenger train (Note: the foiling was done by two veteran US servicemen); None of them had any security firewall to ward off the attacks- no intelligence or no forces on stand by. It was as easy as bombing an empty building.
A senior European Intelligence officer said, "We have to figure out what went wrong and fix it as soon as possible. Because one thing is for sure: Islamic State will try to hit Europe again." Evidently, Europe faces immense structural holes in its security networks and a few patent solutions to deal with varied attacks.
Extremists follow patterns of lifestyle
While some of them have been identified and terminated, many are yet to be flagged as they mingle with the mass and are careful not to stand out or give reasons to law enforecement to probe their background.
Attackers chose their targets strategically, mostly unguarded, which would tax the security system, already buckling under the strain of austerity-imposed budget reductions.
EU ridden with debt, immigration issues, leading to surveillance loopholes
Bernard Squarcini, a former head of France's domestic intelligence service who now leads the Paris office of the global intelligence firm Arcanum said, "The systems of European security that at one time were useful and effective are no longer adapted for this threat. We are dealing with people who are cunning and determined. They've been in combat."
The biggest assets of the extremists are the returnees, who get trained in Syria and then come back home on the pretext of 'returning as survivors' and wage a war against the nation. In addition to this, the attackers themselves have little trouble in crossing the border of Syria and the downtrodden neighborhoods of Brussels and Paris, where preparations for attacks usually are tabled.
Interestingly, they cannot be stopped as France has very poor shared databases on suspected terrorists.
To name such terrorists:
- 28-year-old Samy Amimour, the Bataclan killer, was under judicial supervision in France in 2012 after a failed attempt to travel to Yemen. But he still managed to go to Syria and come back.
- 20-year old Bilal Hadfi, one of the bombers who blew himself outside the Stade de France in 2015, had vanished after returning from Syria, even though the Belgian enforcements knew of his motives.
- 31-year-old Brahim Abdeslam was caught on his way to Syria by the Turkish authorities. Belgian law enforcements questioned him, but let him go. His 26-year old brother, Salah was also questioned although there was information of his radicalization.
- Abdelhamid Abaaoud, Europe's most wanted before the November 13th carnage, bragged of the way he mingled among refugees crossing borders. The 28-year old slipped through the radar of the security forces and was widely thought to be in Syria, where he featured in grissly propaganda videos.
- In fact, he had returned to Europe, but there was no trace of him until Nov 13 when phone records showed that he was standing across the street and watching the mayhem unfold at the Bataclan concert hall.
Terrorism analysts said,"the paradigm needs to change and we need to adapt." He further adds that the only solution would be to upgrade the biometric database, which presently has criminal records only and nothing on suspects of extremists plots.
Manfred Weber, the head of a center-right group in the European Parliament said, "We need a Europe-wide blacklist of jihadists."
He also says, "strengthening of bilateral ties should not be on pen and paper alone, but terror data base should also be shared across the 27-member bloc." However, this comes with a pinch of salt. With the migration numbers going up by the day, keeping a tab on each and everyone is next to impossible. Adding to the woes is the fact that European Union is being drawn apart because of debt issues. François Heisbourg, chairman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies justifies the above-mentioned saying,"The crises facing Europe are taking their toll on trust and unity."
It should also be considered that the French authorities' hands are full as they have to monitor 20,000 people on national security watch lists, about half of whom are said to be extremists.