France – On May 27, five days after a British soldier was attacked off duty in London, a suspected similar attack on a French soldier occurred in Paris. Although French authorities did not want to jump to conclusions, there are striking similarities between the two attacks. It is more than a possibility that the nature of these attacks will occur again, either in the UK or France. “Lone wolfs” will be encouraged by the success of the attacks and know they can be carried out with little planning or funding. To pick out a target that comes and goes from a military barracks, and then attack them is not difficult to do. The publicity and propaganda will then encourage others to do the same.
Unlike the British attack where the assailants stayed in the area of the attack, the French assailant fled. Military personnel need to be encouraged to be aware of their surroundings and how to spot people who appear to be following them, and to take note of their movements. On May 29, the French police announced that a man had been arrested in connection to the attack. Media sources described the arrested man as an adherent of “radical Islam.” He was not described as a jihadist, and the public was warned to be cautious about jumping to conclusions, although this will be difficult with this attack coming so shortly after the UK attack.
United Kingdom – On May 22, an off-duty soldier was killed in Woolwich, London. The soldier was later named as Lee Rigby. Two men drove a vehicle at the off duty soldier and then got out of the vehicle and proceeded to hack him to death. The two assailants, after carrying out the attack, did not leave the area but stayed and explained to those who would listen that they were not safe and should remove the UK government for its dealings in affairs where Muslims were killed.
Michael Adebolajo and Michael Oluwatobi Adebowale were both named as the perpetrators in the attack. When armed police turned up at the scene, they were attacked by the assailants with weapons and both men were shot. British security forces have received criticism for not realizing the threat that these men represented because of one of the attackers, Michael Adebolajo, was deported after being arrested in Kenya in 2010. Adebolajo was of interest to British security agencies because he had attempted to join the Somali militant organization al-Shabaab. No one could have predicted that this attack would happen, but there has been a huge backlash against Muslims in England by the nationalist far-right group the English Defence League (EDL). Attacks against Muslim individuals and Islamic religious locations have sharply risen since the killing of the off-duty soldier. The effect this may have is severe as the Muslim community may attempt to defend itself, which could evolve into conflict with ethnic English, far right organizations. Single attacks of this nature may become a future trend in lone wolf terrorism in many countries that have assisted in the campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the current conflict in Mali.
Paul Ashley is the Senior Counter-Terrorist Analyst