It has been an active and eventful last thirty-six hours around the world and the trend will likely continue at least in the short term. Terrorism in Europe, and the growing possibility of a contested election in the United States are the main headlines dominating the headlines at the moment, but beneath the surface there are other issues worthy of a brief mention.
In Vienna the final casualty count for Monday’s terrorist attack in Vienna is four dead and twenty-two. Contrary to reports of multiple gunmen that went out as the attack was underway, there was only one shooter involved. The attacker was identified as Fejzulai Kujtim, a 20-year-old Austrian male of North Macedonian descent. He was convicted in 2019 for attempting to travel to Syria to join ISIS. He was sentenced to 22 months in prison and released on parole last December. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack even though the link between it and Fejzulai is dubious at best. The Austrian government has also labeled the gunman as an Islamic terrorist and naturally considers the attack to have been of terror origin.
The Vienna attack came days after another Islamic terror attack in Nice, France. With much of the continent now going into another COVID-19 lockdown, there’s concern more attacks could be coming. In fact the United Kingdom has upgraded its terror level to ‘Severe’ in the wake of the Nice and Vienna attacks. This level indicates an attack is deemed highly likely. The move was sensible, given recent events. It is also quite logical to assume that more attacks will be coming in the days and weeks ahead.
In the United States, the 2020 presidential election has yet to be called. I will not delve too deeply into the situation at present except to say that the results may not be known for some time. It would appear that there are court battles looming that potentially may go all the way to the US Supreme Court. However, the election has affected global markets, and left many US allies wondering when the election results will be known.
I was hoping to get to the next installment of the Sino-Indian Crisis piece, but I’m still 24 hours or so behind schedule. It will be posted by Thursday morning. Apologies for the delay.
We have all heard the term soft target. It is a term which has forced itself into the vocabulary of the 21st Century world. A soft target, in the context of contemporary times is a location that is vulnerable to terrorist attack. Islamic fundamentalists prey on soft targets as the world has seen over and over. Bustling airports, cafes and public gatherings cannot be properly defended from the threat of terror attacks, Especially in a free society.
It is somewhat judgmental to label an entire nation as a soft target. However, with tonight’s attack in Nice fresh in our minds, it would not be unfair to say that France is a soft target. For that matter one can make the argument that Europe as a whole is a ripe soft target. Right now, the death toll in Nice stands at 77, with numerous other civilians wounded to one degree or another. French authorities have confirmed that this was a terrorist attack although the identity of the truck’s driver has yet to be revealed. Sky News has reported that the driver is a 31-year old Nice resident of Tunisian nationality, though that information has not been officially confirmed. Sources that monitor Jihadist social media have been reporting that accounts linked to ISIS were ‘celebratory’ following the attack.
I realize that this is neither the time or place to get into it, but enough is enough. I do not know how many terror attacks it will to take for Europe to recognize and admit that Jihadists have embedded themselves deep into the societies of multiple nations on the continent. Further, I have no idea how much longer it will take the EU to build an effective response to these attacks. EU leadership appears paralyzed when it comes to building an effective response against terrorism. Countering the threat begins with acknowledging the connection between the recent spike in terrorism and the ongoing immigration crisis. Not surprisingly, voters in many countries have recognized the connection and the EU’s reluctance to contend with the problems before they blossom. Britain’s impending exit from the Union has much to do with terrorism and immigration. The urgency of the situation following tonight’s tragic attack will galvanize right wing political groups in Europe into action.
All of those variables can be analyzed and discussed later. For now, the right thing to do is to pray for the victims in Nice.