Coming up this Sunday on SBS at 9:20pm is the PBS-produced doco Terror In Europe, and it’s a stern reminder that ISIS aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Tied together through a series of riveting talking heads, each one belonging to someone integral to the fight against ISIS, this is a comprehensive an analysis on where the Western world sits after the string of early-2010’s terrorist attacks on European soil.
Our man in the middle is Sebastian Rotella of ProPublican news.
A twenty-year veteran of terrorism reportage, Sebastian Rotella took on the project in order to find out why the system failed the European people, and quite quickly the question surfaces: were these attacks preventable?
After reporting on France’s Charlie Hedbo tragedy that saw 17 casualties; the same nation’s November 2015 attacks that took 130 lives, and four months later, the Brussels suicide bombing that killed an additional 32 people, Rotella conceived the project to find out what the hell went wrong.
He reveals that Cherif Kouachi grew from a young, orphaned rapper to the Charlie Hedbo instigator
When viewing file footage of Kouachi rapping to camera, it’s almost laughable that he would end up the perpetrator of such a tragedy.
However, back in the mid-2000s, when learning that Kouachi was responsible for enlisting fighters to train with Al-Qaeda, he was arrested and sentenced to 3 years prison (of which he served 20 while awaiting trail before his release).
It is believed that Kouachi’s radicalism only grew in prison.
US intelligence claims Kouachi should have remained in prison
North American officials claim that if Kouachi was arrested on American soil, he would have remained in prison for 15 years instead of under two —the idea being that a prisoner will grow tired of their pursuits.
If Kouachi had remained in prison, then perhaps he wouldn’t have slipped through into Yemen using his brother’s passport in order to train with Al-Qaeda.
It would help if Europe possessed a single, manageable watchlist
After 9/11, the US created a dedicated watchlist for all those considered potential terrorist threats. Known as the ‘No Fly List’, US counterterrorism officials claim it’s responsible for pre-emptively counteracting jihadist behaviours.
The depressing part is most of these various attackers were already known to law enforcement
Many of these culprits had already made names for themselves, though many were underestimated as lesser concerns. Through these events, Europe learned to never again assume the youth can’t successfully carry out coordinated mass-murder.
Belgium was the primary breeding ground for these young minds
Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the beleved mastermind of the 2015 and 2016 attacks on Paris and Brussels, was able to recruit a massive network of criminals for his cause.
This network was tracked from 2013 — a process that proved difficult due to the close-knit, almost familial ties between the men. Some grew up together, went to school together. Apparently, these personal networks are not always easy to penetrate.
We can’t deny the ramifications of the coalitions 2014 bombings of ISIS in Syria
Abaaoud was merely one of many attackers who had travelled to Syria prior to the 2014 bombing campaign, and his thirst for revenge through extreme violence grew ferocious.
It’s believed that these attacks further fuelled the young man’s cause, and strenghtened his resolve to respond in-kind.
ISIS isn’t going anywhere
The frightening fact about ISIS is that they’re less predictable then ever, and that one of their primary goals is to maintain relevance in the West. As terrorist cells are growing increasingly close-knit, almost familial, officials struggle to conserve the funds and resources to stay on top of everything.
To find out what the West can do, and where to find a glimmer of hope, tune into Terror in Europe when it premiere’s this Sunday at 9:20 on SBS.