The waiting game

“For Lille, the question is not if an attack will occur but when it will occur.”

These foreboding words were posted underneath a recent article from La Voix du Nord, the regional newspaper in France’s Nord-pas-de-Calais area. The commenter continued:

“Brussels, Paris, and London have been hit by attacks over the past several years. Lille is right at the heart of this triangle and certain neighbourhoods (Moulins, Belfort, Porte des Postes, Lille Sud, Wazemmes, Roubaix) are crawling with shady characters similar to the Abdeslams and others. It seems to me that an attack is inevitable.”

The grim prediction comes after news broke on September 12 that Lille police had foiled a terrorist attack this year on February 14. It was one of 12 attacks that French intelligence has managed to prevent in 2017 alone, and it was planned to take place in the metro (a popular choice for attacks). The minister of the interior unfortunately didn’t give any more details, but it’s suspected that the foiled plot is in connection to the February 14 arrest of 18-year-old Ismaël Z. in the suburb of Wattignies. He was looking to procure weapons and explosives.

Moreover, it’s known to authorities that radicalization is happening in the Lille metropole. Between 2010 and 2013, over 30 young radicals from Lille went to fight in Syria. One mother of a young jihadist who left to fight in Syria told the newspaper, “It started by handing out crepes and clothes to homeless people in Lille through a Muslim organization. The president of the organization was clearly proselytizing. He was even happy to have successfully converted a homeless person.” The process of radicalization looks similar across the board — it begins so innocently, you wouldn’t suspect a thing. Sadly, for this mother, it ended up taking her son from her when he decided to go fight for the Islamic State.

Lille was my home for half a year. It’s a beautiful city — young, vibrant, full of life. But I remember the migrants flooding in from Calais. I remember the pickpockets selling stolen goods at Wazemmes. There were traces last year. I was there when Brussels, our neighbour, was hit with deadly attacks in the metro and the airport. I went to the candlelight vigil at Place de la République.

I hope and pray that Lille, city of mussels and fries, will be spared from the senseless violence that so many other cities have been struck with. But I can’t deny that all the elements are there — all it takes is one terrorist and a truck, one terrorist and a gun, one terrorist and a bomb, one terrorist and a knife. It’s shockingly easy. French police foiled the last one, but will they be able to foil the next one?

Personally, I wish that France would just start deporting radicals en masse — why waste police time and energy monitoring them when they’re basically ticking time bombs? ISIS sympathizers, terrorist supporters, and people who spread terrorist propaganda do not belong in France and should be removed from the country for the sake of national security. But I highly doubt this will happen — the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, said that terrorism will be “part of our daily lives for the years to come.” He actually proposed the idea that giving youth a Culture Pass will allow them to see the beauty of France, therefore they won’t want to commit jihad. His response to terrorism is first to roll over and play dead, and then to cross his fingers and hope that a stroll through the Louvre will solve France’s major security threats. Needless to say I don’t trust the French government to be tough enough on extremism with Macron at the helm.

Lille will just have to sit tight and hope for the best.

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