Friday,26 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1387, (29 March - 4 April 2018)
Friday,26 April, 2019
Issue 1387, (29 March - 4 April 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Terror in Trebes

Yet another wave of terrorism plays out, this time in the sleepy French town of Trebes, writes Gamal Nkrumah

Terror  in Trebes
Terror in Trebes

Yet another wave of terrorism hit France this week. A hostage situation unfolded in the sleepy Trebes and to be precise the terrorist drama unfurled in a grocery store, or supermarket. The suspect claiming to be instructed by the IS (Islamic State) was later killed by police. Why do most terrorist attacks in France seem to be committed by young men of North African origin? The bigger question is whether there is a systematic timing to these attacks. 

But the test should not be how fast the French police put boots on the ground, but how well they can. The gun-wielding militant Islamist went on a rampage last Friday in a quiet corner of southern France, killing three people as he hijacked a car, opened fire on police and took hostages in a supermarket, where panicked shoppers hid in a meat locker and ran through the aisles. After an hours-long standoff, the 25-year-old terrorist was killed as elite police forces stormed the supermarket.  

The hero was an officer who volunteered to take the place of a female hostage, identified as Colonel Arnaud Beltrame.

The four-hour drama began at 10:13 am when Redouane Lakdim, a 25-year old French-Moroccan, went berserk in the supermarket. Destructively frenzied, Lakdim was known to French police for petty crime and drug-dealing. He was under police surveillance and since 2014 was on the so-called “Fiche S” list, a government register of individuals suspected of being radicalised by militant Islamists but who have yet to perform acts of terrorism.  

Lakdim hijacked a car near Carcassonne, killing one person in the car and wounding the other. This was the deadliest terrorist attack in France since French President Emmanuel Macron took office last May. 

The world was transfixed when Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Beltrame offered himself up to an Islamist gunman in exchange for a hostage on 24 March. Beltrame instantly became a national hero. 

And, as if that was not enough, a Jewish woman, Mireille Knoll, 85, was stabbed to death in her Paris apartment and her body was set alight on Tuesday 27 March.

France has the largest Muslim population in Europe. Islam is the second-most widely professed religion in France after Roman Catholic Christianity. France also has the largest number of officially designated atheists in Europe. 

Meanwhile, the Italian authorities charged Egyptian-born Sayed Fayek Shebl Ahmed with radicalising his son and sending him to fight in Syria. Ahmed, now in his 50s, had fought in Bosnia in the 1990s and allegedly encouraged his son Sayed to follow in his footsteps in jihad’s new global centre. 

Once again the incident confirmed that terrorism is not restricted to France or any particular country, but has become a global phenomenon. “Nevertheless, it is important to note that the expulsions of foreigners were rare occurrences before the Charlie Hebdo attacks in France in 2015 and have since increased to levels unparalleled in other European countries. “This is an aggressive preventive measure since the police only need a green light from the Interior Ministry to execute an expulsion, with no need for a trial,” Marone says. Countries like Britain, France and Belgium can’t do this because radicals are often citizens of the country and therefore can’t be deported,” he added. “In some respects, Italy’s restrictive citizenship laws help anti-terrorism forces clamp down on fundamentalism more freely,” Marone concluded.

“Muslim migration into Italy happened 20 years later than in France and Belgium,” says Maria Bombardieri, whose book on Italian female foreign fighters is about to be published. “This means the second generation are currently kids and teenagers. The pool of those vulnerable to radicalisation has been smaller,” he added. It is obvious that European nations are now subjected to intense pressure by individual Islamist terrorists who do not necessarily claim allegiance to a particular militant Islamist organisation, but often claim that they were driven by the IS.  

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