Islamist terror has reached Europe

Near-simultaneous car bombs exploded outside two Istanbul synagogues filled with worshippers Saturday, killing at least 20 people and wounding more than 300. The government said the attack had international links, raising suspicions that the al-Qaida terror network was involved.

This is tragic, revolting and frightening, frightening because it gives us another indication that the al-Qaida network is getting stronger and more active. (It’s odd how little attention this has gotten in the blogosphere.)

But what disturbs me the most is a thought I just had. I’m thinking it’s highly possible that in the not too distant future something like this will happen in western Europe. Besides innocent victims, I worry about how it will affect European society. Our civil liberties would likely be further eroded. People would be generally feel more insecure, which might also have an economic effect.

It would certainly cause an upsurge in xenophobia in the country where the attack takes place, and to a lesser extent the rest of Europe. Particulary muslims would get harassed and discriminated against to an even greater extent than now. Xenophobic parties would gain in polls. Calls for even more restrictive immigration policies. Etcetera, etcetera.

All these things are some great challenges facing us today, so the potential for damage is great. The question then, is how much impact it would have. Perhaps very little? An attack would hardly be on the scale of 9/11. A – hopefully moderate and temporary – reinforecement of negative trends. Would it have any effect outside the country where it would happen? Do news from neigbouring countries feel much closer to home than Bali or whatever?

I do think it would have some impact. I haven’t heard any discussion of the issue, no articles on this bombing has made the connection.. We don’t think about it. We will be shocked. But we shouldn’t.

Update: Blogger Kris Lofgren reports from Istanbul.

Update 2: Slightly edited.

13 thoughts on “Islamist terror has reached Europe

  1. Well, it is not a new. There were islamic attentates in previous years in western States. And there will be others in the near future.

    DSW

  2. Actually, my post makes more sense if you think I’m talking about something on the scale of Bali, rather than this one. It’s a little alarmist as it is. On second thought.

    Antoni, are you talking about the 70s? Very different circumstances, not that relevant in my humble opinion.

  3. I remembered one that happened in Spain and googling a little gave me:
    a) AGO-1985, Francfort, Alemania, 2 muertos, 20 heridos, Base Militar americana (auto bomba)
    b) ABR-1986, Berl?n, Alemania, 2 muertos, 150 heridos, discoteca de soldados americanos (bomba)
    c) DIC-1986, Roma y Viena, 24 muertos, mostrador aeropuerto (hombres bomba)
    d) ABR-1985, Madrid, Espa?a, 18 muertos, restaurante Base A?rea americana (bomba)
    e) NOV-1985, Isla de Malta, 60 muertos, avi?n Egipt Air (secuestro)

    The one I remembered was the c) in december 85. The e) is a reminder that air piracy is a form of terrorism. And I think that a few intents were thwarted in France in recent years.

    DSW

  4. There was a report in the “Washington Post” in May that a parked American Boeing 747 had been hijacked right from a runway at the airport of Luanda. The CIA was said to be frantically searching for it all across Africa. Have there been any reports that it has been found since?

  5. “A few attempts were thwarted in France”

    8 dead, 200 hurt, in a bombing in the Saint Michel RER Station in Paris on the 25th of July in 1995. That is pretty much the geographical center of Paris,nexus of public transportation. That’s large scale.
    On this page, pretty much all the terror attacks in 1995 and 1996 are attributed to radical islamism.

    Indeed, more attempts were thwarted during that time, such as a bomb on a TGV railroad.

    Radical Islamic terrorrism has certainly reached western Europe for sometime. (Its financial networks were based in London, and the UK government won’t extradit the main financial backer of that wave of attacks.)

    Civil liberties were quite certainly eroded with the Vigipirate Plan, which has been put back in use after 9/11. Xenophobia … Well, no need to talk about the results of the 2002 presidential elections, though by that time the terror attacks were mostly forgotten.

  6. Other than wishful thinking, why should one believe that an attack on the scale of 9/11 could not happen in Europe?

    What’s to stop a plane from CDG from toppling La Defense? Or from LHR to Canary Wharf? FFM to the Deutsche Bank towers? How hard would it be to set of a truck bomb at Berlin Friedrichstrasse? Under the Arc de Triomphe? Near St Peter’s on Easter Sunday?

    German authorities foiled a plan to bomb Christmas markets. With weekend shoppers there as thick as a rugby scrum, you wouldn’t have to topple a skyscraper to have a thousand dead.

    One is left with a hope that the security services are on the case. Otherwise, there is nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing that makes Europe invulnerable to an attack on the scale of 9/11.

  7. Yes, something of the same magnitude could happen in western Europe, and only wishful thinking would lead people to a different conclusion. However, I was in France during the 1995 bombings, and as paranoid as the government was – they sealed shut all the public trash bins in Paris and the Army patrolled the Champs-Elys?e – I don’t remember the public much wigging out. As bad as such an attack would be, I don’t think it would induce the kind of mass trauma 9/11 has caused in the States. Imported violence from the Middle-East isn’t new in Europe. It is in the US.

  8. Well,
    “As bad as such an attack would be, I don’t think it would induce the kind of mass trauma 9/11 has caused in the States. Imported violence from the Middle-East isn’t new in Europe. It is in the US.”

    I dunno about that. The first attempt on the WTC didn’t cause nearly as much upheaval as the second despite being rather bloody in its own right.

    I don’t think it’s the body-count that causes the trauma so much as the target and how well the attack is pulled off.

    Blowing up a few random trash cans all over Paris is one thing, Bringing down La D?fense would be something else again. Or forget major buildings, and go for a coordinated attack against a major transportation network that thousands use everyday…

    On the other hand, now that AQ has brought down the WTC towers, none of their subsequent, and subsequently smaller hits has been as world-changing.

  9. “Other than wishful thinking, why should one believe that an attack on the scale of 9/11 could not happen in Europe?”

    You’re right I shouldn’t have said “hardly” but rather “most likely”, but I think it’s still not very likely. I don’t think we’re a prime target, and I think something like 9/!! is relatively hard to pull off. An attack on the scale of the Istanbul is almost likelier than not to happen, I fear.

  10. I think a new attack would have a bigger impact than ’95 because it would be al-Qaida, and because 9/11 has happened. It would be more frightening, they would feel moe like targets. And it would have a bigger impact on people in neighbouring countries.

  11. Today we have another two big explosions in Istanbul, as of now maybe 25 dead, the British Consul is one of them and that gives a pointer on who is doing that and why, and maybe more than 400 wounded.

    On TVE1, the main public TV channel in Spain, the reporters made the claim that in Istanbul it was easy for Al Qaeda to find prospective suicide bombers.

    DSW

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