Beyond the Paris Incidents
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 14 Jan , 2015

In the movie, Lord of War, Nicholas Cage as the arms dealer Yuri Orlov says “Of all the weapons in the vast soviet arsenal, nothing was more profitable than Avtomat Kalashnikova model of 1947, more commonly known as the AK-47, or Kalashnikov. It’s the world’s most popular assault rifle. A weapon all fighters love. An elegantly simple 9 pound amalgamation of forged steel and plywood. It doesn’t break, jam, or overheat. It’ll shoot whether it’s covered in mud or filled with sand. It’s so easy, even a child can use it; and they do. The Soviets put the gun on a coin. Mozambique put it on their flag.

…the Paris incidents were not the first attack by a radical terrorist module and nor will they be the last.

Since the end of the Cold War, the Kalashnikov has become the Russian people’s greatest export. After that comes vodka, caviar, and suicidal novelists.” And, why not? This, over half a century old masterpiece by  Mikhail Kalashnikov, has a cyclical rate of fire of 600 rounds per minute which in practical terms means around a hundred rounds per minute in the hands of a trained soldier is a formidable weapon in every sense of the word, but even more so in urban terrain and built up areas. We have had the misfortune of witnessing the havoc and devastation it can cause in the recent events in France.

The fact of the matter and one that we need to come clearly to terms with is that the Paris incidents were not the first attack by a radical terrorist module and nor will they be the last. However good may be the intelligence establishment or security services of any country in the world a hundred percent success in countering such threats is just wishful thinking and this war will go on with many victorious battles and a few defeats. That is the nature of the beast, if one can call it that.

However, even more worrisome is the evolving nature of the threat that has now come to be termed as lone wolf attacks. In that sense the Paris incidents were not lone wolf attacks, as some media incorrectly referred to them, because they were highly planned and required manpower, logistics and financial support to be carried out. All of this is bound to leave a fingerprint or signature which will ultimately be deciphered, hopefully before they are able to strike or as sometimes it tragically happens, as in this case, after the event.

…security agencies face an insurmountable task since they can neither detect planning for such attacks nor take timely action to prevent the attack being executed.

Lone wolf attacks are fundamentally different in that they involve individuals driven by radical ideology, not necessarily mentally unbalanced, who decides to act on his own with no support utilizing commonly available items as weapons. Occasionally, he may even have an accomplice and in countries, such as the United States, where gun laws are extremely lax, the attacker would in all probability use a rifle or a pistol. However, as we have earlier witnessed, in Israel last year, for example, a bulldozer driver of Palestinian origin suddenly went berserk and used his bulldozer to ram cars on one of Jerusalem’s busiest streets, killing three Israelis before he was shot dead. There have been other such attacks there as well in which knives, pistols and cars have been used to attack randomly causing fatalities. Such cases as we know are not just restricted to Israel.

In 2013 we had an attack on a British soldier on leave in the UK in which two individuals attempted to behead him. Cases in Canada and Australia are of even more recent origin. In fact in the week, prior to this horrendous attack, there were three incidents involving individuals screaming “Allah O Akbar” and ramming cars into bye-standers or attacking police with knives in Central France and at Dijon and Nantes

In these circumstances, security agencies face an insurmountable task since they can neither detect planning for such attacks nor take timely action to prevent the attack being executed. The psychological impact of such attacks on the local population can never be underestimated, especially in societies such as ours, which are open, democratic and diverse.

The question that then arises is as to how can we deter such attacks?

The only practicable solution appears to be that policies and actions of political parties, civil society, religious groups and governments need to ensure that issues that may inflame passions are best avoided. By that, chances of ordinary citizens becoming radicalized will be reduced, but more importantly, families, communities and their leaders will willingly participate and cooperate with government and security agencies when they suspect that members within their communities might resort to violence. This has to be our first line of defence and we as citizens have the duty to force our leaders to understand the consequences of causing friction by either words or deeds.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Brig Deepak Sinha

is a second generation para trooper and author of “Beyond the Bayonet: Indian Special Operations Forces in the 21st Century.” He is currently a consultant with the Observer Research Foundation.

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3 thoughts on “Beyond the Paris Incidents

  1. There are other significant lone wolf attacks- the Unabomber, The Norway mass killer Anders Behring Breivik. The latter was anti-isalmic! Also the Oklahoma City bombing. Is it possible to engage with these radical elements? Are there any examples of moderates turning radical? Brainwashing and radicalisation of susceptibles is different as those who turn radical following an event. The former were probably never moderate, they were latent radicals. In the latter, if there are any examples, it will probably be a personal revenge motive, not any great ideological manifestation.

  2. what is more worrisome now is the menace of the home grown terrorist. he is urbane, suave ,educated peaks the local language fluently and is a part of the sociaty that too a responsible member till he commits tah act. this perhaps poses the greatest challenge to the int agencies and there are no answers yet. hope we find a solution soon enough profiling is not an answer

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