For the third time in eighteen months, France is a scene of a major terror attack. This time, 84 French and foreigners were killed and 200 more injured by a determined murderer who ran over them using a large truck as they celebrated Bastille day in the Mediterranean city of Nice.
The attack took place even though France is under an official state of emergency that was imposed after the Paris attacks in November 2015 and after hosting the European soccer championship. What is clear from the recent Nice attack and reactions of French officials is that despite the state of emergency, France continues to live in a state of denial.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has claimed that there was no security failure on the French authorities’ part.
While it is true that the attacker, Mohamed Bouhlel was not known to any intelligence agency for affiliation with extreme Islamic or terror groups, Bouhlel was known very well to the French police as a man with a criminal record, one that includes violent acts and the use of weapons.
Bouhlel was a foreigner from Tunisia who has been living legally in France. Despite committing five crimes, he was never imprisoned for any length of time nor deported from France. If a foreigner who committed five crimes was never seriously imprisoned or deported, who is worth deportation in the eye of the merciful French law?
France’s officials have been telling the world that their country is in a state of war, yet they act as if God will send angels to protect French civilians while law enforcement agencies act as if it is business as usual.
Not only was Bouhlel never deported after a series of violent crimes, he was even able to acquire weapons that he used while committing his massacre. Again, lax French law and law enforcement agencies is astonishing.
The Law Enforcement Failure
As with the Charlie Hebdo attack in January 2015 and the Paris attacks last November, French police have failed the public miserably. A celebration of the national holiday in a city hosting about 30,000 people should have been protected by more than the roughly hundred police officers assigned for this year’s celebration.
The barriers that were used to prevent cars from entering the pedestrian area should have been solid enough to actually prevent cars from entering. Bouhlel was able to drive at a fast speed and run over three hundred people for 1.1 miles before being shot by the police.
We also know that Bouhlel was well prepared. Fox News World reported, “CCTV footage from the days beforehand show Bouhlel driving through the area in his 19-ton truck, carefully studying the scene, Europe 1 radio reported. The footage shows Bouhlel driving slowly near Nice's Promenade des Anglais early last week.”
Bouhlel was not monitored after his last arrest just a few months ago. The media is overplaying the fact that he did not have a terror connection. Even so, that is no excuse for not watching a foreigner with a criminal record. If the French government can afford to pay the French president’s hairdresser about $10,000 a month, they ought to be able to pay more law enforcement officers to keep an eye on terrorists and criminals.
Instead of claiming that there was no security failure, the French prime minister should have fired the minister of interior and acknowledged what many French people know by now: French counterterrorism and law enforcement agencies failed to prevent three massacres in eighteen months.
The inability to imagine the imaginable
In securing any location, competent security officers ask themselves, “If I were a criminal or a terrorist, how do I breach this location’s security?” By answering this question and using their imaginations, security officers set up procedures to protect these locations and the people who entrust their lives to them.
In the Nice attack, there wasn’t much imagination needed to predict such a massacre, and accordingly set better security procedures to protect the people celebrating Bastille Day. France witnessed at least three recent incidents where criminals with terrorism motives used vehicles to run over people. Two of them took place in December 2014 in the cities of Dijon, eastern France and Nantes, western France. The third took place in June 2015 in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, southeastern France.
France is second only to Israel in the frequency of this kind of attacks. The fact that the Nice massacre took place with such a high toll of lost lives indicates that the French counterterrorism agencies and the law enforcement officers simply didn’t do their homework.
Jihadi terrorists always aim to ruin the ordinary people’s sense of security by targeting them during the most important events that attract thousands of people. Killing people while celebrating the national holiday is on top of their agenda. The failure to predict an attack on Bastille Day is not only unacceptable, but also unforgivable.
Instead of accepting even a modicum of accountability, the French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls was slammed for saying, “France will have to live with terrorism.” Despite the Vall’s assertion that there wasn’t much that could have been done to prevent the Nice attack, all the facts state otherwise.