It is around 9 pm in Paris on Friday 13th November. Gunmen armed with AK-47s land in several places in the 10th and 11th Arrondissements of the city where people have gathered for evening meals, a football match and a concert, amongst others. The gunmen come by car. They fire at random into the crowds. In some places, like the Stade de France where the Germany-France football match was being played, spectators are totally unaware that terrorists are targeting them. They simply fall under gunshots.
There are seven to eight terrorists identified in the six places where they shoot unsuspecting civilian victims. Six of them blow themselves up later; one is shot down; another one is believed to have escaped. As this human tragedy unfolds, it is reckoned that some 129 persons have died at bullet point or during the terrorists’ self-immolation when blowing themselves up; there are at least 200 wounded, of whom upwards of 80 are in serious condition.
The gunners are mostly young men raised and brought up in France with a possible Belgian connection; one of them is suspected to have come through Greece a month earlier as part of the massive flow of refugees from Syria into Europe. In the course of the shootings, the gunmen state that the killing of the innocents is meant to punish France for having fought against terrorists in Syria.
The whole of France, nay, the free world, is plunged in absolute shock and grief at this massacre of innocents. Solidarity messages come in from all parts of the free world. All this no doubt consoles against the deep loss at the hands of a few gunmen. It also shows how vulnerable the world is becoming to terrorists, how the seeds of crime are effectively being sown from outside, turning the country’s own citizens into its enemies.
Friends and families can only grieve at their losses after what looks like a carefully crafted attack against the very lifestyle and at the heart of a civilisation altogether different from where the attackers have drawn their inspiration from. All this is clearly the job of insiders plotting their acts in utmost secrecy, with a clear intent to produce the biggest impact, a maximum amount of casualties at the risk of loss of far fewer lives on the terrorists’ side.
Isis, an Islamic extremist group operating in Iraq and Syria, has claimed responsibility for the attacks. It would be an error to conclude that this was a one-off event. It would not be surprising at all that the extremist group would have bred and brought up secret cells of terrorists in many Western countries in order to strike at any one target country which it would like to intimidate and render chaotic at any point in time. Its plan would be to strike anywhere, anytime, and carefully managing so as not to allow its actions to be foiled by its political adversaries. It must be building up its strike force, ready to hit targets at the appointed time.
As if coming from nowhere, Isis has amassed one of the world’s largest and most diverse volunteer fighting force in the world. It now has dominion over hundreds of thousands of square kilometres and millions of people and has the necessary supply of money to fund its atrocious deeds. Despite extensive combined strikes by allied forces of the West, it has resisted, and perhaps become even stronger.
Western governments would be foolish to swing to their immigrant-repulsive right wings at this turn of events. That would only add to Isis’s ammunitions by bringing in even more recruits into its ranks from those countries, to be sent back conveniently to them, after training, to perpetuate similar other massacres. This is without counting on its effective propaganda to attract to the fold fighters not so much for religion’s sake as for promises of glory and esteem for a greater cause.
For the moment, those countries (in vast regions from America and Europe to countries in Africa and Asia in which there is a power vacuum) which are being targeted by Isis and its namesakes do not have the answer to the widespread radicalism being preached by Isis to gain sway over the minds of its followers and would-be followers in all those places. Short of an effective antidote, Isis is catching the free world where it is most vulnerable. The massacres of Paris are a reminder of such inroads.
The Paris attacks appear to be modelled on the same Jihadi model as the one that was mounted from Pakistan against Mumbai in November 2008, the only difference being that all the attackers entered into India from Pakistan and were not nationals groomed at home. In which we lost one compatriot, innocent just like all those gunned down or blown off in Paris last Friday. The Russians have just learnt at the loss of 224 lives last month, victim of a bomb set off in their plane in Egypt, that the Isis will spare no power on earth. It will hit all who do not share its convictions.
Isis has stated that the Paris attacks are only the precursor of more to come. From what we’ve seen, this may be more than a vacuous statement. Meticulous long-haul work has been and is being done that will demonstrate to nations that there is more to it than meets the eye. Only the future will reveal the amount of havoc Isis and its outreaches in other countries are capable of wreaking on unsuspecting countries all over the planet.
We have nothing to do with the places Isis and its likes have identified as targets (New York, London, Madrid and more recently, Egypt, Turkey and now Paris) in its mission to spread chaos. The fear is that in a place like Egypt, the bombing of the Russian plane by Isis, which has claimed responsibility, has caused an important collateral damage – its tourism sector may not easily raise its head so soon. No one appears to be safe from the machination of minds Isis has shown itself capable of. We must make sure the virus does not travel to our shores and disrupt the serenity we enjoy as a nation of many diverse cultures cohabiting in an exemplary manner on a relatively small plot of land with an accommodating heart towards all.
- Published in print edition on 20 November 2015