Far from clear if Friday's three attacks, in Tunisia, France and Kuwait, are directly connected
Terrorism experts agree they will all serve to get ISIS back in the headlines
Danger is that crackdown will be counter-productive, one terror expert says, further glorifying ISIS
It is far from clear if Friday’s three attacks, in Tunisia, France and Kuwait, are directly connected, but terrorism experts agree they will all serve to get ISIS back in the headlines.
The attacks, in which dozens were killed, came days after a spokesman for the jihadist group urged followers to step up attacks during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
If ISIS can take ownership of the attacks this will make them appear more successful and boost recruitment, commented CNN’s terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank. “This is a group that feeds off its own success,” he said. “We can expect more of this during Ramadan, especially in the West.”
Less than six months after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, French authorities had already warned that it was facing an unprecedented threat from “lone wolf” attackers or something more coordinated.
The suspect in Friday’s attack in France was already known to police, but Cruickshank pointed out that French authorities cannot possibly monitor the thousands of suspected jihadists in the country. Security levels will now rise further across Europe, he added, especially during Ramadan.
Greater surveillance would be welcomed by many in France, said commentator Agnes Poirier. The fact that the suspect was known would “highlight the extraordinary difficulty in which French police, and European anti-terrorism forces in general, find themselves.”
“Such details highlight the extraordinary difficulty in which French police, and European anti-terrorism forces in general, find themselves. Social networks have been quick to question yet another case of an attack that wasn’t foiled in time,” Poirier said.
“However, such acts are being foiled every month without the wider public being informed. A majority of French people feel both powerless and frustrated in front of a menace whose nature is by definition to be unpredictable and to strike at the heart of society.”
Danger of glorifying ISIS
The shootings at a beach resort in Tunisia, came three months after gunmen opened fire at the Bardo museum, killing 21 people, mostly European tourists. That attack was the deadliest on tourists in the Arab world since the 1997 massacre in Luxor, Egypt.
There is now likely to be a crackdown on Islamists, Cruickshank predicted, but the danger is that this will be counter-productive, further glorifying ISIS in a country from which more than 3,000 Tunisians have traveled to wage jihad in Syria and Iraq.
About 500 of those fighters are believed to have returned, stretching the resources of security services. In December 2014, ISIS released a video calling on Tunisians to pledge allegiance to the group and carry out attacks, including assassinations.
Tourists were an especially attractive, soft target for jihadists, said Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchins, from the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College London.
“One of the main things you achieve when you hit tourist industries in countries like this that really depend upon tourism is that you are hitting the economy.
“The Kenyan tourist industry and economy has taken a huge hit since they became a major target of al-Shabaab and this is again an attempt probably to destabilize [Tunisia] as well.”
In Kuwait’s capital on Friday, an apparent bomb blast tore through a mosque during Friday prayers, killing 25 people and injuring more than 200 worshippers, state media reported.
ISIS claimed responsibility for what it called a suicide bombing at the Shiite-affiliated Al-Sadiq mosque. The choice of target is significant, Cruickshank said, because the group has been trying to increase sectarian tensions by provoking Shia reprisals against Sunnis.
It also wants to force Gulf states to protect Shia minorities and by forcing them into uncomfortable political situations, to de-legitimize those regimes, he added.