France as a target of terror

The attack, perpetrated on Bastille Day, shows that France is a key objective for jihadists

The Spanish royal family and a group of students observe a minute's silence after the Nice attack.
The Spanish royal family and a group of students observe a minute's silence after the Nice attack.Chema Moya / EFE

Thursday night's brutal attack underscores, once again, that if there is one country that’s being targeted by jihadist terrorism, it's France. The attack perpetrated in Nice while thousands of families celebrated Bastille Day, could be – although it is still too early to know for sure – an operation by a commando made up of one or more individuals back from the war in Syria, where a significant number of French citizens are fighting. Or it could be the act of a lone wolf inspired by the jihadist doctrine disseminated on the internet.

The way the attack was carried out —a truck plowed into a crowded thoroughfare— and the lack of confirmed firearms is reminiscent of some of the calls to action in the videos that the Islamic State’s production companies routinely put out on the internet, calling on all French citizens of Muslim descent to attack other French citizens with any weapon at their disposal, from knives to vehicles.

Once again, the fanatical ideology of the Islamic State has led to an indiscriminate attack against “soft targets,” which is to say unarmed individuals, with the ultimate goal of producing the greatest possible impact.

There could not be a starker contrast between French society – internally fractured by the rise of Marine Le Pen’s populist National Front , labor conflicts and bitter political infighting within the left and the right – and the seriousness of the terrorist challenge ahead.

Jihadism’s obsession with France has to do with the latter’s legacy as a former colonial power from Morocco to Syria, but is also related to the lack of integration of its Muslim minority and the nation’s condition as a symbol of secularism and republican values.

But above and beyond all this, no matter how many problems French society may be grappling with, or how tragic this attack may be, its stark and senseless brutality underscores how the Islamic State lacks the slightest ability to impose its reign of terror on our societies. This type of attack proves the desperate and fanatical nature of individuals whose ideology is based on death and terror, but who are not going to change how we live.

July 14, 2016 will be rightfully remembered as a tragic day. But in the coming weeks, once the nation has mourned, France will continue to be France. The fanatics may inflict serious damage, but they will not defeat our democracies.

English version by Susana Urra.

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