Before these horrific events, there was a knife-wieldingteenager on a German train
. And before that, much deadlier attacks in Nice
and last November, in Paris.
This year has seen an accelerating pattern of attacks
linked to ISIS in Europe and beyond — fromTurkey
, the United States
to Indonesia. According to the group IntelCenter, which tracks acts of terrorism, there has been a significant attack directed or inspired by ISIS every 84 hours since June 8 in cities outside the war zones in Iraq, Syria, Sinai in Egypt and Libya. CNN’s own tracking of attacks supports
More than half of those attacks have been beyond big cities in places “not traditionally under threat of terrorist attacks,” says IntelCenter. This rash of random, low-tech but deadly attacks has fueled public unease in Europe and eroded faith in governments to tackle the threat of terrorism or discern who might turn to violence.
It has also diminished trust in justice systems accused of leaving too many dangerous people at large. Despite twice trying to go to Syria, Adel Kermiche
— one of the 19-year-old attackers who killed the priest in France — was released from custody and allowed out of his home for four hours a day. Despite repeated efforts to deport him, the Ansbach bomber
— Daleel Mohammad — was still in Germany.
In my week-long journey across Northern Europe, that public unease was never far from the surface. Callers to German radio stations said they were apprehensive of visiting a mall. A shaken teacher who knew one of the attackers in France told CNN: “I never thought for a day in my life that a young person would commit a terrorist act here in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray.”
In Ansbach, a picturesque town in Bavaria, stunned locals drifted past the scene of the suicide bombing at a café, where abandoned drinks and playing cards bore silent witness to the moment of terror the night before.
These attacks have also prompted fundamental social questions. Respect for openness, liberal democracy and due process are being eaten away by a toxic mixture of extremism and psychosis.
Fear breeds civic distrust
Intelligence analysts Flashpoint Partners say there is “more coordination between potential lone actors or small unofficial cells with jihadi media — a way to guarantee that their message is disseminated and to prove their allegiance to ISIS without necessarily joining its ranks.”
The consistent public message from ISIS over the past year or so has been: “Don’t come to Syria; kill the unbelievers at home.”
These attacks, and the expectation of more, have fed not only the mood of growing anxiety. They have become part of a combustible political debate. I witnessed this in its rawest form at the site of the Munich killings. A young relative of one of the Turkish victims called out “Allahu Akhbar” in prayer, which was met by a torrent of abuse from some right-wingers present, provoking the Turks to yell “Your sisters will be next.” Police moved in swiftly to keep the two groups apart.
In a poll after the attack in Nice, more than two-thirds of the French people questioned said they did not trust the government to combat terrorism effectively, a sharp increase over the previous year. Prime Minister Manuel Valls was booed
by some of the crowd when he attended a memorial service for the victims.
“The government will have to answer the question: how flagged individuals, including one under judiciary control for attempting to wage jihad in Syria, were let free to commit such attacks?” asked former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, widely thought to be eying another bid for the top job next year.
France has deployed 4,000 troops in Paris; another 6,000 beyond. Bavarian Premier Horst Seehofer has called for similar measures in Germany.
But it seems even 100,000 troops could not guard against these random attacks.
The answer, to Sarkozy and others on the right, is internment without trial for anyone suspected of jihadist sympathies. It would be a dramatic