Sunday 23 October 2016

Supporters know that there is a risk - only they can decide if it's one worth taking

Declan Power

Published 20/05/2016 | 02:30

Euro 2016: 'Only you can decide if going is worth that risk'. Photo: Getty
Euro 2016: 'Only you can decide if going is worth that risk'. Photo: Getty

The destruction of the EgyptAir flight has concentrated minds back on the ongoing terror threat facing us in Europe.

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It is too early yet to know for sure if the destruction of the EgyptAir flight was due to terrorism.

But it came on the same day that a warning emerged from Patrick Calvar, the head of France's domestic intelligence service, of attempts by Isil to bomb large crowds.

Some months ago, the security services of other countries including Italy had warned of intelligence indicating plans by Isil to target popular tourist destinations.

This confluence of intelligence has now focused attention back on the impending Euro football championships. At the moment, the general public needs to be aware that security in continental Europe, and particularly on its fringes, is in a very fluid state. Those who travel to countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Italy, will notice paramilitary police patrolling ports, railway stations and airports. Often times they can be seen around urban areas, just like Belfast in the old days.

Such measures are largely cosmetic to allay public fear and indicate to both friend and foe that the governments of Europe are taking the terror threat seriously.

However, the real mechanisms that keep us safe when travelling to, or living in, such cities are less observable and require more long-term and painstaking attention than quick deployments of well-armed uniforms.

Continental Europe is still in the process of fixing its intelligence architecture and forming channels of dialogue with elements of the Islamic community, the majority of which wish to assist in foiling violent extremism.

These things take time - and undoubtedly Europe will prevail, learning some of the methods which countries like the UK and the Netherlands have successfully employed in partnership with their Islamic communities to foil attacks.

The old adage in terrorism theory is that if you change your life patterns and routines as a result of terrorist action, then the terrorist has won.

However, when you are faced with an adversary as capable of innovative thinking and determination, then it makes sense to take prudent action as opposed to boldly blundering into unnecessary danger.

If one does a quick estimate of the current situation, the following can be deduced: First, a number of reputable Euro security and law enforcement agencies have consistently warned of imminent attempts to attack areas of large crowd concentration in Europe. Second, the more recent attacks on European soil have been perpetrated by people born and bred in Europe with full rights to move around Europe as any other citizen. To fully comprehend the breath of this network takes time and expertise. The European agencies cannot at this point say with 100pc certainty they can gather the necessary intelligence to prevent large scale future attacks.

Third, terrorists do not attack countries, people or events to 'punish' them, as some other pundits like to point out. They attack where they can, when they can. Terror is a weapon of the weak, they do not have the luxury of a broad selection of targets. They have attacked in France and Belgium primarily because they are in a position to do so. This then begs the question for those that plan to go to the Euros.

You know the reality, there is a discernible risk. Only you can decide if going is worth that risk.

Declan Power is a former soldier turned security and defence analyst, who is now working on counter-terror evaluations for the European Commission

Irish Independent

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