The last 18 months have seen France suffer three deadly attacks that left more than 231 dead and hundreds injured. Jihadist groups claimed responsibility. France is said to be at “war” with jihadists since the November 2015 attacks in Paris. As many as 600 French nationals – have rallied to the calls of the “self-styled Islamic State” (IS) in Iraq and Syria.
France and its allies
France is the second largest contributor to air strikes for the international coalition led by the United States against the militant group in Iraq and Syria.
France is also at the front line of operation Barkhane in the Sahel where jihadists continue to strike blows from Ouagadougou to Grand Bassam, also attacking peacekeepers.
Professor Peter Neumann, from the Department of War Studies at King’s College London and Director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, gave some context to the attacks:
“France has certainly been the country, perhaps more than other European countries… very exposed in terms of foreign policy, in terms of deployments in other countries, especially Muslim countries.”
According to Prof. Neumann, operations conducted by jihadists in France are motivated by hatred as they accuse France of being a country that spreads a form of Islamophobia. He went on to explain: “They really hate France because they see it essentially not only as a crusader nation like a lot of other European countries, but a nation with an explicitly aggressive anti-Islamic agenda.”
Jihadi hotspots in France
The French Alpes-Maritimes department, of which Nice is the capital, said at the end of last year that 236 people were being monitored for suspected ties with radical Islam.
Yasmina Touaibia, a Doctor of Political Science who teaches at Nice law school, pointed out that “the Alpes Maritimes is one of the Departments that has the highest number of jihadists in France. And the reason is simple: the South of France, like Paris and Lyon, are territories where the FIS (Islamic Salvation Front) and GIA (Armed Islamic Group) of Algeria implanted secondary bases in the 1990s”.
Lone wolf or jihadist?
The investigation has shed light on the premeditated nature of the attack, according to the Paris Prosecutor. Carefully planned and classified as a new sort of attack, it shows the extreme difficulty facing counter-terrorism forces, when the perpetrator is neither heavily armed nor has he received training from jihadist groups.