On the 7th January 2014, as the Western world wound down from festive and New Year’s celebrations, the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were attacked by 2 Jihadi brothers, Saïd and Chérif Kouachi. Both French citizens of Algerian descent, the brothers targeted the magazine’s Parisian offices after it had attracted widespread attention due to its scathing depictions of the prophet Muhammad. 1 year on, and Europe is a very different place as a result of both further terror and an ongoing refugee crisis. Just how much changed as a result of the Charlie Hebdo attacks is unclear, but ultimately the shootings were a sign of things to come in Europe, and marked a new landscape within the region.
While the Charlie Hebdo attacks were initially deemed a revenge attack for the magazine’s portrayal of Muhammad, it quickly became clear that they went beyond this. Europeans saw the attacks as a direct assault on the Western way of life, and the fundamental value of free speech. The “Je Suis Charlie” campaign that followed on social media demonstrated an initial determination to rise above those who sought to disrupt this. Western leaders adopted a similar, unified approach and spoke of the necessity to carry on as normal, and not allow Jihadis the disruption they crave.
However, the changes we have witnessed since demonstrate a massive increase in the presence of Islamic terror and willingness to attack. After a thankfully quiet summer, Paris was again targeted in November, however this time on a much larger scale. The increase in both sophistication and willingness to cause mass death demonstrated the change in radical Islam, which coincided with the rise of the so-called Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. ISIS’s encouragement to others to attack on Western soil became a reality in the November attacks, which ultimately dwarfed those observed in January.
2 terror attacks in a year is worrying for Paris, a tourist favourite loved the world over, but what is more concerning is the perpetrators, particularly their nationality. As stated, Saïd and Chérif Kouachi are both French citizens, and the mastermind and perpetrators of the November attacks held Belgian passports. This conveys the new age of terror faced by Western authorities, and while intelligence services may try, these are particularly hard to monitor and thwart.
The concept of an enemy within is a worrying one, but one which may have a silver lining. This new age of terror simply demands enhanced information and intelligence sharing among States effected, and may lead to a new-age of European co-operation. As has been seen since the UK voted to undertake air strikes against IS in Syria, intelligence gathering is fundamental to Western safety- even more so than killing Jihadis according to the British army’s operations thus far.
One thing that is also certain is that there simply can be no more mistakes in the war against Islamic terror- the embarrassment that followed the announcement that Salah Abdeslam had been questioned by French police and let go, only to become the most wanted man alive, mustn’t be allowed to be replicated. In an age where Western intelligence is extremely sophisticated, it is up to those involved to gather information efficiently and effectively, in order to overcome the comparatively weak enemy.
Western unity is fundamental to success in this battle; it is often said after tragedies such as Charlie Hebdo and the November attacks that such attacks unite us- it is now time to put this into action and truly demonstrate that the world is committed to unifying against this most abhorrent enemy. IS seek to divide populations, thus we must overcome these targets through co-operation, unity and a genuine determination to overcome.