The wave of terror that washed over Paris on Friday night is only the most recent one and the most severe in the chain of terrorist attacks in France and its capital in recent years.
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France in general, and Paris specifically, have experienced terror throughout many periods in history, the last meaningful wave coming during the war in Algeria. Even though France has faced grave attacks before, such as Mohammed Merah’s murder spree in Toulouse three years ago, the current wave, the scope of which is becoming more apparent Saturday, is being categorized as the most violent series of events since World War II.
The current wave began in January with a series of attacks on the Charlie Hebdo magazine and the kosher market in eastern Paris. The shock was great, and the public recruitment in condemning the attacks was enormous.
But there have been other events since then that attracted less attention.
In February, soldiers protecting a Jewish center in Nice were attacked with a knife. In April, a young Algerian man identified as belonging to Al-Qaida killed a woman in the outskirts of Paris. In June, Yassin Salhi beheaded his boss in southeast France. In July, four young men, including a former soldier, were arrested on suspicion of planning a terror attack on a military base in the country in the name of the Islamic State.
In August, only the quick wits of vacating United States Marines averted a bloodbath on a high-speed train from Brussels to Paris. The Moroccan-born terrorist was arrested. At the beginning of this month, a 25 year old was arrested on suspicion of plotting an attack on a French naval base in Toulon in the south of France.
So the writing wasn’t only on the wall — it was inscribed in bold letters on the Eiffel Tower.
An poster allegedly created by ISIS supporters, which shows a group of young people at a night club, alongside the words "this jihad is not only in Syria," was shared on French social media Friday night. At the bottom of the poster, a photo of a hand grenade appears next to the words “Easy to conceal, perfect against a crowd of heretics.” And all of it in French. Just how credible this threat is remains unclear, but what is totally clear that the threat is severe and immediate.
The heads of France, who have recently been warned that the country is in danger, promised that they are doing everything in their power. But the harsh results of Friday night — at least 127 killed several sites around the city — show that those responsible for security failed to foil the threat.
Three attackers managed to blow themselves up close to the stadium where President Francois Hollande, together with tens of thousands of fans, was watching a soccer game. After that, at least four terrorists continued to operate at different locations in the city, taking advantage of the surprise factor and armed to the teeth.
Alongside the bravery of the policemen who stormed the night club, and despite the successful evacuation of the Stade de France, which could have resulted in a far more serious disaster, the black night in Paris is a resounding failure in thwarting terrorism.
Hollande, the supreme commander of the armed forces in France, must provide the French now, albiet late, what he and the other French security staff failed to provide on on that night of horrors: security. The repercussions of success or failure will be dramatic — and not only for France’s political future, but for lovers of freedom throughout the world.