Just a run-of-the-mill lunatic, a lone wolf with a purpose, or a planned response to anti-terror efforts in France? The choice of targets suggests the latter, as does the last name of the assailant — a familiar one to French authorities in this attack on three soldiers outside of a Jewish community center. In fact, he may not have been “lone” at all, which would strongly suggest a coordinated effort:
Three soldiers on an anti-terror patrol in the southern French city of Nice were attacked by a man with a knife Tuesday, a French police union official said.
Sarah Baron said the extent of the soldiers’ injuries is not yet clear. She said the attacker was detained but two people with him are believed to have fled after the stabbing in the city center, near the Galeries Lafayette department store.
France has been on high alert since the attacks in the Paris region by three Islamic extremists that left 20 people dead, including the gunmen. More than 10,000 soldiers have been deployed around the country to protect sensitive locations, including major shopping areas, synagogues, mosques and transit hubs.
The Reuters report published at the Times of India has a picture of a French soldier guarding a mosque, which shows the extent of concern about violence in France at the moment. Two of the soldiers required medical attention for wounds to the face and arm, according to the BBC:
One soldier was hurt in one arm, the other in the face in Tuesday’s attack, an official at Nice city hall said.
Two police officers from the city’s tram service and another man managed to arrest the assailant, who reportedly had two knives.
The soldiers were guarding a building housing the Nice Israeli Consistory, Radio Shalom and a Jewish association.
The assailant has the Malian surname Coulibaly – the same as that of one of the Paris attackers, who killed four people in a Jewish supermarket.
Yes, that seems like an odd coincidence, n’est-ce pas? The New York Daily News says it might just be a coincidence, though:
Sarah Baron, a police union official in the city of Nice, said the attacker was detained after the attack near the Galeries Lafayette department store. Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi said the attacker had an identity card with the name Moussa Coulibaly.
The surname, which is relatively common for families of Malian descent, is the same as that of the man who seized hostages in a kosher supermarket in Paris and gunned down a policewoman last month.
It’s always a good idea to wait for more information before jumping to conclusions. The nature of the target still seems rather dispositive, though, as well as the timing. In another coincidence, this attack took place on the same day that French authorities began rounding up suspected Islamist extremists with links to jihadist organizations:
French counter terrorism police arrested eight people with alleged links to jihadist cells in Lyon and the Paris suburbs Tuesday morning, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said at a Paris press conference.
He said 161 legal investigations into terrorism are currently ongoing, with 547 people implicated in the inquiries.
Of those 547 people, 167 people have been arrested, 95 are under investigation and 80 are in jail, he said.
Cazeneuve also announced that “a new counter-terrorism” decree would go into effect on Wednesday.
France has suddenly begun to take this seriously. Sky News reports that France is beginning to give up on the idea of multicultural fraternité, and is now starting to focus on assimilation as a cultural imperative. The problem is that the damage has already been done, and it will make the task all that much harder:
CNN reports that a second suspect has been held, although it’s not clear whether he had any connection to the attack:
The suspected attacker has been arrested, BFMTV reported. A second man seen with the suspect before the attack is also being held, although there’s nothing to indicate he was an accomplice, BFMTV said.
The wounds were not serious, apparently, so the soldiers are expected to recover. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds, and we’ll update as necessary as it does.
Update: Did France have an opportunity to stop this? According to the Daily Mail, Turkey detained and deported a French citizen by the same name last week, after he attempted to travel to join ISIS:
The man who stabbed three soldiers outside a Jewish community centre in Nice today, was apprehended in Turkey last week while en-route to join ISIS, authorities believe.
Moussa Coulibaly, 30, was arrested at Istanbul airport and deported back to France after border control became suspicious, a security source has said.
His shares the last name of Amedy Coulibaly, who took hostages in a kosher supermarket in Paris and gunned down a policewoman last month.
The surname is relatively common among families of Malian descent, but anti-terrorist police have confirmed they are ‘investigating a link’ between the pair.
If the surname is common, so is the first name among Muslims. This might be an entirely different Moussa Coulibaly. If it’s not, French authorities might have some explaining to do, but this sounds a little far-fetched.