Nous sommes avec Paris

Paris was once again the scene of unspeakable tragedy last night as dozens of innocent lives were lost to the actions of cowardly terrorists.

While the full timeline of events and the full list of casualties is still understandably unclear, what is clear is that Paris came under a planned and multi-faceted attack by terrorists whose aim was to kill indiscriminately.

There were three separate attacks that took place simultaneously, with gunmen storming the Bataclan concert venue and killing over 80 people, gunmen attacking restaurants leaving over 14 people dead and three suicide bombings at the Stade De France, where over 80,000 people were watching France play Germany in a football friendly, which fortunately occurred outside the stadium.

This was a sophisticated attack, the likes we have been warned about for over a decade here in Europe. We have been fortunate that the security services in all Western countries have managed to foil many terrorist plots in that time, but nonetheless it’s a tragedy that last night’s events were not prevented.

These terrorists did not act on behalf of religion, but on behalf of an ideology of hatred; they are hell bent on creating division between people to fuel their so-called holy war.  By refusing to give in to fear and to hatred, we defeat them.

We need to remember that there were tremendous acts of humanity in the midst of the most inhumane circumstances last night.   Thousands of Parisians took to social media with the hashtag #PorteOuverte to offer shelter to those affected by events, giving people in the most desperate times some comfort and support.  We need to take heart that humanity showed it’s better colours last night even though forces of evil tried their best to tear it down.  The kind human spirit is undefeatable.  That heartening truth needs to be remembered just as much as the horrific events of last night.

This is the worst terrorist attack in Europe since the 2004 Madrid train bombings, with at least 128 dead at the time of writing with as many as 80 others in critical condition in hospital.  That time it was Al-Qaeda who instigated the callous attack, and this time it seems ISIL are the culprits.

This will surely act as a catalyst in prompting further Western action against ISIL, something which many countries have been somewhat hesitant towards with the shadows of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq still looming large over politics ten years on.

French President Francois Hollande has had a very difficult time in office, and is facing abysmal polling ratings and a very likely defeat in the 2017 Presidential election.  This is the third terrorist attack he has faced in his country this year alone, after the Charlie Hebdo shootings in January and the attempted train attack in August.  With the domestic political climate he faces, Hollande nearly certainly has to further commit forces to fighting ISIL – although perhaps just shying away from putting troops on the ground until there is a coalition in favour of doing so.

With the West now again under imminent threat of serious terrorist attacks from a Middle Eastern enemy, it seems that the path to war has once again been set out before us.  Both Barack Obama and David Cameron have issued strongly worded statements condemning the actions of ISIL and pledging to put an end to their reign of terror.

Fighting ISIL has now got to be one of the priorities for Western Governments.  This is not a situation like Iraq or Afghanistan.  The enemy here is an abomination the likes of which we haven’t seen in the civilised world for centuries.  The Islamic world condemns these vile people unreservedly.  This time, a fight against ISIL has unquestionable support across the West, the Middle East and the world.

Whether or not we go again to war in the Middle East, we must keep the messages from last night in our heads always.  These terrorists did not act on behalf of religion.  By refusing to give in to fear and hatred, we defeat them.  The kind human spirit is undefeatable.

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