With the whole world watching the American Presidential Elections unfold, events in Europe have gained much less attention from the media and from the public. Whilst they might have been eclipsed by the tense situation in America, the past month has seen three distinct terrorist attacks in both France and Austria, which should not be ignored. With these recent attacks are we witnessing a resurgence of terrorism in Europe?
The first of the most recent terrorist attacks in Europe took place in Paris on Octoberr 16th, when a French teacher, Samuel Paty, was beheaded by the 18-year-old Abdullakh Anzorov. The teacher was targeted for showing his pupils cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, which is seen as blasphemy by the Islamic community. The killer was shot dead by the police. This topic is particularly sensitive in France, following the events that unfolded in 2015 when the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published cartoons of Prophet Muhammad; for which they were targeted in a terrorist attack that led to the death of 12 people. Earlier this autumn, in September, the magazine Charlie Hebdo decided to republish the cartoons before the trial of 14 people that have been accused of aiding the attackers in 2015, in memoriam of the victims and as a way of reinforcing their belief in the French values and the freedom of speech. However, this decision might have unearthed forgotten tensions in France.
Less than two weeks after the death of Samuel Paty, another terrorist attack took place in Nice, where three people were stabbed to death at the Notre-Dame basilica. The suspect was shot and detained by the police. President Macron has reassured the French public that they will not give in to terror. Nice also has a dark past, having been subjected to terrorist attacks before, in 2016, when a lorry was driven into a crowd of people on Bastille Day, killing 86.
On November 2nd four people were killed when a man opened fire on the people in the Bermuda Triangle, a popular area in the Austrian capital, where many were spending their last night out before a national lockdown. The attacker was shot dead by the police. The 20-year-old had tried to join the Islamic State in the Syrian war in 2019 but had failed and been arrested in Vienna. He had been released from jail in December 2019, after convincing the authorities that he had been de-radicalised, although he was never assessed. The attacks have sparked new fears in Vienna, increasing the uncertainty caused by the pandemic.
In response to these recent attacks in Europe, the UK government has raised the terrorism threat level to ‘severe’. The UK threat levels are: low (an attack is highly unlikely) < moderate (an attack is possible but not likely) < substantial (an attack is likely) < severe (an attack is highly likely) < critical (an attack is highly likely in the near future). This decision has been taken as a precautionary measure and the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, has encouraged the British public to be ‘alert but not alarmed’.
Written by Diana Jalea