If the violent group has no clear aims, is negotiation possible?by Joanna Bourke / August 18, 2016 / Leave a comment
“Does Terrorism Work? A History,” by Richard English (Oxford University Press, £25)
Fear is creeping into the public sphere in unprecedented ways. The heightened presence of armed police as well as armoured cars on our streets, in our sports stadiums and outside government buildings is just one sign of a growing alarm about a multiplicity of terrorist threats.
On the evening of 14th July, crowds celebrating Bastille Day in Nice discovered that terror does not always involve elaborate equipment. Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, the Nice attacker, did not have to learn to pilot a plane; he did not need to purchase explosives; he certainly was not expected to know anything about the latest pathogens and toxins. His actions probably didn’t even require the sustained support of a large community of like-minded jihadists (though the French prosecutor has alleged that he had accomplices.) All that he required was a driver’s licence and a 19-tonne white lorry. When the Tunisian-born Bouhlel ploughed into the crowds on the Promenade des Anglais, killing 84 people and injuring more than 300, the resulting carnage was representative of 21st-century terrorism. Just like the subsequent killing of a priest on 26th July in Normandy, it is the kind of event that is going to be difficult to prevent.
Nine months earlier, on the evening of 13th November, France experienced the single most deadly terrorist strike in its history. Suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the Stade…