First Published: 2017-08-18

Low-cost attacks a new reality for Europeans
Unsophisticated low-cost attacks, that are difficult to monitor or prevent, are part of ISIS strategy with multiple cities already having seen vehicles drive into crowds.
Middle East Online

Latest attacks in Barcelona and the seaside resort of Cambrils left at least 14 dead and 100 injured.

LONDON - Vehicle attacks of the sort seen in Barcelona are easy to organise and difficult to stop and have become part of a new reality for Europeans, experts say.

Paris, Berlin, Nice, London and Stockholm have already seen extremists drive vehicles into crowds. The latest attacks in Barcelona and the seaside resort of Cambrils left at least 14 dead and 100 injured on Thursday night.

The atrocities by extremists willing to die carrying out an attack are likely to lead to a rash of new security measures designed to protect pedestrians. But experts warn that citizens' safety cannot be guaranteed 100 percent.

"It's the principle of 'soft targets'," Frederic Gallois, the former head of France's elite GIGN police force, said. "Any gathering of people is a soft target and there are crowds everywhere."

Even if security services managed to protect symbolic sites and the most popular areas around cities, nearby streets or neighbourhoods would still be vulnerable, he said.

The unsophisticated low-cost attacks are in sharp contrast to the highly coordinated and planned assault on Paris in November 2015 which left 130 dead. But they are very much part of the strategy of terror groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group (IS).

Both extremist groups have urged their followers to use whatever means at their disposal, including vehicles, as part of a strategy of "death by a thousand cuts" aimed at destroying the West.

"They aren't looking for spectacular results using huge resources, but rather they want frequency to try to destabilise their adversaries," Gallois added. "It's the regularity which is the problem.

"At the moment, there's an attack every four to six weeks in Europe," he added. Then with each lull, "everyone says to themselves 'something's going to happen'."

- Learning to live with terror? -

Many countries have increased the number of armed security forces patrolling Europe's streets to deal with the threat, while police are now well-drilled in responding to incidents.

Further investments in intelligence-gathering and information-sharing between EU members could also help reduce the risk of future violence, some experts believe.

In Syria and Iraq, military action by Western powers and their local allies has also shrunk the territory and resources available to IS, which claimed Thursday's attack in Barcelona.

Jean-Pierre Filiu, an expert on terrorism at the Sciences Po university in Paris, warned against thinking the military defeat of the organisation would bring an end to the wave of assaults.

"They want to show that they are still effective despite the territorial losses. But it's not because they are retreating in Iraq and Syria that they are striking now," he said on France Inter radio.

The Radicalization Awareness Network, an EU research body, warned last month that 1,200-3,000 jihadists risked returning to Europe after fighting in Iraq and Syria -- out of an estimated 5,000 who joined the terror groups there.

Nathalie Goulet, a French senator who sits on a parliamentary panel tasked with analysing jihadist groups, said it was important to avoid anti-Muslim rhetoric, which plays into the hands of the extremists.

One of IS's stated goals is turning Western governments and citizens against Muslim minorities in their countries.

"You need to look at the reality. Telling people that banning Muslims... or closing mosques will resolve the problem is lying," she said in a recent interview.

"Someone who gets into their car and crashes into a crowd, unfortunately we need to learn to live with that and every citizen must remain vigilant," she said.

 

UN Security Council warns against holding Iraqi Kurd vote

Barzani delays Kurdish independence vote announcement

Iran defies US, tests missile

Yemen leader promises UN to open entire country to aid

Saudi Arabia marks national day with fireworks, concerts

Turkey warns of 'security' steps in response to Iraqi Kurd vote

Syria's war off the radar at UN assembly

For many Iraqis, tradition trumps police

Darfur clashes kill 3 as Bashir urges reconciliation

Saudi cleric banned for saying women have ‘quarter’ brain

Veteran Syrian activist, daughter assassinated in Istanbul

Tunisia drops forced anal exams for homosexuality

Bomb used in Saudi-led strike on Yemen children US-made

Syria Kurds vote to cement federal push

Police charge teenager over London Underground attack

Nigerian official to meet Turkish counterpart over illegal guns

Thousands feared trapped in Raqa as IS mounts last stand

Iraqi forces achieve first step in new offensive on IS

Migrant boat sinks off Turkish Black Sea coast leaving four dead, 20 missing

Trump praises 'friend' Erdogan

Rouhani vows Iran will boost missiles despite US criticism

Russia clashes with EU over Syria

UN sets up probe of IS war crimes in Iraq

US, Iranian top diplomats confront each other for first time

Air strikes kill 22 civilians in northwest Syria in 48 hours

Iranian supreme leader lashes out at Trump UN speech

Thousands of Huthi supporters mark 3 years since Sanaa takeover

Iraq attacks all remaining IS territory at once

Moscow accuses US of hitting Syrian regime forces

Turkey jails lawyers representing hunger striking teachers

Turkey, Iran and Iraq make joint threat against Kurd vote

Syrian Kurds to hold first local elections in federal push

Qatari expats lauded as statesmen by Arab critics

Shipwreck off Libyan coast leaves over 100 migrants missing

Will Turkey’s opposition to Kurdish state translate into action?

US ups the ante on Iraq Kurds

Macron: Iran nuclear deal no longer enough

Trump’s mind made up on Iran but refuses to divulge

Scores of Iraqis missing during war against ISIS

Netanyahu rejects calls for mixed gender worship at Western Wall

Russia accuses US of missile treaty breach

Iran TV translator mocked for watering down Trump speech

Saudi Arabia hopes Kurdish referendum will not take place

Saudi invites women to sports stadium for first time

Saudi set to create $2.7 billion investment company