Officials announced this month that the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France is to have a 2.5m-high (8 ft) wall of reinforced glass built around it as protection against terror attacks. The wall will be designed to stop individuals or vehicles from storming the site.
The Paris mayor’soffice has disclosed that th wall will replace metal fences, which were put up for the Euro 2016 football tournament. The project, if it is approved, is expected to cost about 20 million euros (US $21 million) and work on it should begin later this year. The project will also involve reorganizing pathways around the tower.
The French capital has been on high alert since attacks by jihadists in November 2015 left 130 people dead. Last July, 86 people were killed when a lorry ploughed through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in the southern city of Nice.
According to the assistant mayor for tourism, Jean-Francois Martins, the Eiffel Tower, which is one of France’s most famous landmarks, attracts more than six million visitors each year. He disclosed that the terror threat remains high in Paris and the most vulnerable sites, led by the Eiffel Tower, must be the object of special security measures. He went on to say that itwill replace the metal grids to the north and south with glass panels, which will allow Parisians and visitors a very pleasant view of the monument, adding we have three aims to improve the look, make access easier and strengthen the protection of visitors and staff.
News of the glass wall project comes after earlier this month a man wielding two machetes attacked soldiers at Paris’s Louvre Museum. President Francois Hollande has since stated that there is little doubt that the incident was a terrorist act.
Last Friday (3 February), another attempted terrorist attack took place in Paris, when French soldiers shot and critically wounded a man who attacked them with a machete at the Louvre while shouting “Allah Akbar”. Reportedly, a group of four soldiers guarding the entrance of the Louvre shopping centre had refused him to entry with two backpacks. When the troops stopped him, he launched the attack, wounding one of the soldiers. Hundreds of visitors were inside the museum after the incident and were evacuated. According to the police, the man has been identified as Abdullah Reda Refaei al-Hamamy, a 29-year-old with Egyptian identity paper who arrived in France last month.
After initially refusing to talk, the man, who remains under arrest in hospital, has confirmed his identity. Agence France-Presse has reported that Hamamay had visited Turkey in 2015 and 2016. Afterwards, he entered in France on 26 January on a flight from Dubai and stayed at an apartment costing € 1,700 (£ 1,470) a week near the Champs Elysees that had been reserved last June, months before he applied for a tourist visa in October.
The man’s father, a retired Egyptian police general, said his son had never shown any signals of radicalisation. He said his son is a sale manager and also justified his stay in Paris as a business trip. According to his family, Hamamy was expected to go back to the Emirates soon, as he has a wife and a seven-months old son and they have accused French authorities of seeking to justify their shooting with false allegations.
No group has claimed the attempted attack so far, and no link to extremism was found during a search of the apartment. Moreover, after few days, Hamamy has broken the silence about his intentions, claiming that he acted of his own will and intended only to damage works of art at the gallery as a symbolic attack on France.
However, investigators do not fully believe his statements after they found out a series of tweets posted in Arabic few minutes be fore the assault was launched. In those posts, in which he exalted Allah and the creation of an Islamic State, he does not refer to ISIS by its Arabic acronym, Daesh, but used the phrase “Dawlat al-Islam”, which is commonly used to refer to the group’s territories by its supporters.
Egyptian officials, who are collaborating with French authorities, have declared that local security agencies are gathering information to help establish if he was a member of any militant groups or had been radicalised in the past. In the meantime, President Francois Holland has labelled the act as “clearly an act of terrorism” and prosecutors in Paris said they would ask judges to file preliminary charges of “attempted terrorist murder” and “terrorist criminal conspiracy”.
Since 2012 the country has struggled against Islamic terrorism, which has already caused 250 victims. A French mayor and member of the French National Assembly, Jaques Myard, has blamed the Schengen agreement, which allows traveling throughout much of the EU without border-controls. According to Mayard, France is in a dark place, as it has to face to threats: the threat of terrorists coming from abroad, and an internal threat, because of its large Muslims community. He reiterated that, although not all Muslims of course are radicals, over 10,000 of those could be radicalised across France. In those conditions it is impossible to really prevent anything, since it is impossible to have 100 per cent security everywhere. The only possible thing for citizens to do, Mayard added, is to be vigilant and always on guard, alerting the police every time they see something suspicious.
France disclosed on 21 November that it had foiled a terrorist plot and arrested seven people, a year after a state of emergency was imposed in a bid to counter a wave of Islamist attacks.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve disclosed in a statement “yesterday, a terrorist act on our soil that was being prepared for a long time was foiled thanks to the work of the DGSI,” referring to France’s internal intelligence service. He wen on to say that “the scale of the terrorist threat is enormous and it is not possible to ensure zero risk despite everything we are doing.” Mr Cazeneuve disclosed that seven people of French, Moroccan and Afghan origin, aged 29 to 37, were detained on 20 November, adding that one of the detentions followed a tip-off from a foreign government. According to the interior minister, two were arrested in the Mediterranean port city of Marseille and four in Strasbourg in the northeast of France. Mr Cazeneuve did not disclose where the seventh person was arrested. While the minister provided no information on the target of the planned attack, the mayor of Strasbourg disclose that it appeared that the plot had not concerned his city but rather “the Paris region.” A source close to the inquiry also disclosed that some of those detained had spent time in the Syria-Iraq region. Meanwhile Le Parisian newspaper has cited a source as having told it the suspects arrested were awaiting a consignment of weapons.
The news of a foiled attack comes as France prepares to elect a new president next year. Security is a major theme in campaigning ahead of the May 2017 election. Since January 2015, when Islamist militant killed seventeen people in Paris in an attack on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, more than 230 people have been killed in attacks on French soil. On 13 November 2015, gunmen and suicide bombers killed 130 people in coordinated strikes in Paris. The so-called Islamic State (IS) group, whose strongholds in Syria and Iraq are being bombed by airplanes from an international coalition that includes France, has urged followers to continue attacking the country.
A report released on 16 November indicated that deaths from terrorism in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries decreased last year by 650 percent despite a marked fall globally as Nigerian-based Boko Haram militants and the so-called Islamic State (IS) Group suffered military defeats at home but carried out more attacks abroad.
The Global Terrorism Index (GTI) has reported that worldwide, there were 29,376 deaths that were caused by terrorism in 2015. This figure represents a decline of 10 percent, adding that this is the first decrease in four years. GTI disclosed that his decline was due to action against IS in Iraq and Boko Haram in Nigeria, which cut the numbers killed there by a third. IS was the deadliest group in 2015, overtaking Boko Haram. Last year, IS carried out attacks in 252 cities that led to 6,141 deaths. The index however has noted that Boko Haram’s move into neighbouring countries – Cameroon, Chad and Niger – saw the number of fatalities in the se countries increase by 157 percent.
The report however notes that the groups have spread their actions to neighbouring states and regions, where they have caused a huge increase in fatalities amongst OECD members, most of which are wealthy countries, such as the United States and European countries. According to GTI, of the 34 OECD member countries, 21 had witnesses at least one attack with most deaths occurred in Turkey and France. Last year’s terror incidents included coordinated attacks carried out by IS gunmen and suicide bombers at the Bataclan music venue, a soccer stadium and several cafes in Paris in November, which killed 130 people. The index also noted that Denmark, France, Germany, Sweden and Turkey all suffered their worst death tolls from terrorism in a single year since 2000, adding that in total twenty-three countries registered their highest ever number of terrorism deaths. Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria, which accounted for 72 percent of all deaths, were the top five ranked countries in the GTI. The United States ranked 36th, with France coming in 29th, Russia in 30th and the United Kingdom in 34th.
According to Steve Killelea, executive chairman at the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) think-tank, “while on the one hand the reduction in deaths is positive, the continued intensification of terrorism in some countries and its spread to new ones is a cause for serious concern and underscores the fluid nature of modern terrorist activity,” adding that “the attacks in the heartland of western democracies underscore the need for fast-paced and tailored responses to the evolution of these organizations.”
Germany’s plan of conducting security investigations of all military recruits appears to be more and more a concrete reality.
German media reported on 5 November that the military counter-intelligence service (MAD) identified 20 Islamists in the country’s armed forces. An agency’s spokesman confirmed the figure later, adding that other 60 potential cases are under investigation for suspected links to Islamist militants.
Early in 2015, MAD had already warned that extremists could have potentially taken advance of the German Military to gain skills that they could then take to groups such as the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Reportedly, in fact, Daesh and other terrorist organizations were actively encouraging their followers to join states military forces to get training. This seemed to be confirmed, according to MAD President Christof Gramm, by the fact that, for example, the killers who launched an attack on the Paris magazine Charlie Hebdo had military skills.
Two months after this attack, Gramm proposed for the first time an initial check for applicants to armed services.
After multiple Islamist militant attacks that shook Germany in July this year, the German government decided in August to allow preliminary background checks on recruits to be done starting in July 2017. At that time it was reported that more than 300 German soldiers were being investigated for some forms of suspected extremism: 268 suspected right-wing extremists, 64 suspected Islamists and six suspected left-wing extremists.
According to MAD it has been decided to speed things up after recruitment offices across the country have reported increasing individual inquiries from applicants expressing a commitment request to join the German Military (Bundeswehr) of only few months and expressly interested in intensive weapons and equipment training.
Currently, under German military law, recruits only need to present their police records and formally agree to comply with the German constitution to enlist; moreover just service members that have already enlisted, including soldiers and officers, are vetted.
The new measure, if adopted, would allow conducting comprehensive background checks on all applicants as of January 2017 and it would result in at least 20,000 screenings annually, causing some €8.2 billion in additional expenditures.
The German army is regarded as one of Europe’s most capable in terms of training. During army boot camp, recruits are taught shooting and marksmanship skills, map reading and topography, and the fundamentals of woodland and urban warfare, as well as to give emergency aid. Having said that, it is evident that Islamic infiltrations in the national army constitute a serious risk not only for insider attacks in country but also for the rest of Europe.
However, this measure has received critics from several parts of the public opinion, both in Germany and outside. The Measure is, in fact, considered in line with the questioned new state defence plan put in place in August, which entails for citizens to stockpile food and water enough to last for at least ten days, in the event of a major disaster or armed attack.
According to its critics, the German government seems concentrating its efforts just on radical Islam, when the country is relatively safe in comparison to France and other nations. There would be instead other areas that need particular attention like right and left wing extremists.