Monday 26 September 2016

'Nice has been a jihadist breeding ground for years' - terrorism expert

Published 15/07/2016 | 11:42

A woman places a candle during a vigil to honor victims of the Bastille Day tragedy in Nice, France. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)
A woman places a candle during a vigil to honor victims of the Bastille Day tragedy in Nice, France. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)
The truck which slammed into the crowd that had gathered for a Bastille Day fireworks display in the Riviera city of Nice. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
A security guard walks near the scene of an attack after a truck drove onto the sidewalk and plowed through a crowd who'd gathered to watch the fireworks in the French resort city of Nice, southern France. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
French forensic police continue their investigation as they gather clues the day after a truck at high speed ran into a crowd killing scores celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday. Reuters/Eric Gaillard
French police forces and forensic officers stand next to a truck that ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday on the Promenade des Anglais killing at least 60 people in Nice, France. Photo: Reuters
Ambulances line up near the scene of the attack. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
People cross the street with their hands on their heads as a French soldier secures the area after the terror attack. Reuters/Jean-Pierre Amet
Twitter feed video grab courtesy of @harp_detectives of people running away. Photo: @harp_detectives/PA Wire
French soldiers cordon off the area after a truck ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday. Photo: Reuters/Eric Gaillard
French soldiers advance on the street after last night's terror attack. Photo: Reuters/Eric Gaillard
French President Francois Hollande makes a televised address in Paris. (French Pool via AP)
Police officers seal off the area of an attack after a truck drove on to the sidewalk and plowed through a crowd of revelers who'd gathered to watch the fireworks in the French resort city of Nice, southern France. Photo: AP
French soldiers stand guard by the sealed off area of an attack after a truck drove on to the sidewalk and plowed through a crowd of revelers who'd gathered to watch the fireworks in the French resort city of Nice, southern France. Photo: AP
Police officers stand near a van that ploughed into a crowd leaving a fireworks display in the French Riviera town of Nice. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Video grab shows ambulances and Police cars after a truck drove on to the sidewalk and plowed through a crowd of revelers who had gathered to watch the fireworks in the French resort city of Nice. Photo: BFMTV via AP
Police officers and a soldier stand by the sealed off area of an attack after a truck drove on to the sidewalk and plowed through a crowd of revelers who'd gathered to watch the fireworks in the French resort city of Nice, southern France. Photo: AP
French police forces and forensic officers stand next to a truck that ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday on the Promenade des Anglais killing at least 60 people in Nice, France. Photo: Reuters
French police forces and forensic officers stand next to a truck that ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday on the Promenade des Anglais killing at least 60 people in Nice, France. Photo: Reuters
French police and rescue forces vehicles are seen on the Promenade des Anglais after at least 60 people were killed in Nice, France, when a truck ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday. Photo: Reuters
French police and rescue forces vehicles are seen on the Promenade des Anglais after at least 60 people were killed in Nice, France, when a truck ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday. Photo: Reuters
People cross the street with their hands on thier heads as a French soldier secures the area after the attack
Police officers carry out checks on vehicles in the centre of French Riviera town of Nice, after a van drove into a crowd watching a fireworks display on Bastille Day. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
At least 60 people are feared dead after a van drove into a crowd watching Bastille Day fireworks in the French resort of Nice. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
A soldier stands guard near the site of an attack in the French Riviera town of Nice, after a van that ploughed into a crowd leaving a fireworks display on July 14. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Police officers speak with a soldier after a van that ploughed into a crowd leaving a fireworks display in the French Riviera town of Nice. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Police officers stand near a van that ploughed into a crowd leaving a fireworks display in the French Riviera town of Nice. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Police officers and firefighters arrive near the scene after a van ploughed into a crowd leaving a fireworks display in the French Riviera town of Nice. . Photo: AFP/Getty Images
A vehicle of the Raid special intervention unit of the French police is seen near the site of the attack in the French Riviera town of Nice. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
A helicopter flying near the scene after a van ploughed into a crowd leaving a fireworks display. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
French soldiers advance on the street after at least 30 people were killed in Nice, France, when a truck ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday July 14, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

Dozens of people have travelled from Nice to join Islamic State, an expert said.

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Peter Neumann, director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence at King's College London, described the area as a "jihadist breeding ground".

He said: "Securing the borders would have been some kind of solution in relation to the Paris attacks, where the attackers came from Belgium, but we will have to see in this particular case whether the attackers are from outside or actually from Nice.

"Because Nice, for anyone who has been following this, has been a jihadist breeding ground for a number of years.

"We've seen dozens of people going from Nice to the Islamic State, to Syria, and the first recorded attempted attack in Europe was very nearby in Cannes, so it's likely the attackers are from within the vicinity, rather than abroad."

He added: "If it turns out this was not a so-called lone wolf attack but directed from within Syria and Iraq, then it would make sense to try to eliminate the sanctuary, the safe haven that IS enjoys in Syria and Iraq, but at this stage we just don't know.

"What many people have speculated is that as Iraq and Syria become less of a state for IS, they are resorting to more terrorism abroad, almost trying to compensate for their losses, by lashing out in Europe and elsewhere. In that sense, fighting them in Iraq and Syria may have the opposite effect."

Focus has turned to a message from an IS spokesman nearly two years ago which listed running over victims with a car as a possible means for carrying out attacks.

There has been no formal claim of responsibility from any organisation so far.

Another expert said intelligence agencies in France and around Europe will be working to establish whether the attacker was acting alone or linked to or inspired by any organisation.

Margaret Gilmore, senior associate fellow at security think tank the Royal United Services Institute, said: "There has been no claim of responsibility yet, but certainly the working theory is that this is a terrorist attack.

"This individual may well have either been inspired by or had links to Isis, but we do not know for sure."

She added: "The intelligence agencies will be trying to work out if he was working alone.

"The British will be doing exactly the same thing, they will be putting his name into their data systems here - was he a member of Isis, did he have friends in Isis, or was he simply inspired by them or some other group?"

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