France has once again been attacked by radical Islamic terrorism. First there was the deadly attack in Paris on the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo on January 7, 2015 which killed twelve people. This attack was followed two days later by a siege which took place at a Kosher superette in the Port Vincennes area of Paris which ended in the death of four individuals. Then on November 13, 2015, the city of lights experienced a night of horror when gunmen and suicide bombers implemented a series of coordinated attacks at multiple highly populated venues including the Bataclan concert hall which resulted in the killing of over 130 people. Now, the Riviera city of Nice was attacked on July 14, Bastille Day with 84 people killed including two Americans and over 200 injured after a large 19-ton white truck crashed into the Promenade Des Anglais where many people were celebrating. Prior to plowing his truck into the crowd, the driver opened fire causing many people to run as Le 14 Juillet celebration quickly turned into a night of fear. The driver was ultimately shot to death by the police.
The driver was identified as Mohammed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a 31-year-old French-Tunisian delivery driver who was born in Tunisia but had a French residency permit. According to Christian Estrosi, the president of the prefecture where Nice located, the truck was filled with arms and grenades. On Saturday July 16, The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.
Nice, which has a population of over 300,000, is known for its famous Promenade des Anglais and the Hotel Negresco which dates back to 1913. The Promenade des Anglais and the Hotel Negresco became well known in the United States as a result of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous novel about ex-patriots living abroad Tender is the Night and the subsequent film with Jason Robards and Jennifer Jones. It is horrifying to witness venues such as Nice, Paris, Brussels, Orlando etc. under attack. For it is clear that the terrorists behind these attacks were after soft symbolic targets. They wanted to attack people while they are on the beach, at a concert, at a nightclub or celebrating their country’s day of independence.
Once again, the perpetrator’s story follows a similar pattern, namely a history of violence and unstable behavior. According to The UK Mirror, Bouhlel was known by the police for “common law crimes such as theft and violence”. Bouhlel last appeared in court in March where he was found guilty of “violent conduct”. While Bouhlel has been described as an “unlikely jihadist” because he did not attend a mosque regularly, drank alcohol, ate pork and did not observe Ramadan, he has been revealed to be “a soldier of the Islamic State”. According to the French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, 31, “radicalized his views very rapidly, very swiftly.” Cazeneuve added, “We are now facing individuals who are responding positively to the messages issued by the Islamic State without having had any special training and without having access to weapons that allow them to commit mass murder.”
We are increasingly hearing these stories of “unlikely Jihadists” becoming rapid converts to ISIS without any special training and equipment, using whatever means at their disposal to implement acts of terror. In this case, the deadly weapon was a 19-ton truck. However, even though these individuals at first impression do not appear to be likely to fall prey to ISIS, they do exhibit hallmarks of behavior which are typical of ISIS’s warriors including isolation from others, a tendency towards violence, etc. The point with Bouhlel is that something with him was awry, but nobody said or did anything about it. We have to start taking that statement “If you see something, say something” more seriously.
Unfortunately, we are revisiting an all too familiar scenario, a horrible crime against humanity takes place through the hands of ISIS and we spend weeks trying to figure out how this incident happened. Of course, it does not help matters that during his public statement about the Nice attacks, President Barack Obama refused to say the words “radical Islamic terrorism”. Instead he said, “We cannot give into fear or turn on each other or sacrifice our way of life,” …. “We cannot let ourselves be divided by religion because that’s exactly what the terrorists want.”
Once again, we are serving political correctness at our own peril. We need to improve our intelligence gathering and sharing because ISIS is finding new and faster ways to recruit its army. We need to wake up and start being more vigilant about identifying and eradicating the evil among us. We need to use the words “radical Islamic terrorism” without caveats and without hesitation. And if we see something that looks out of place, we need to speak up before another horrific act of Jihad takes place.