Nice attack shows terrorism in all its glorified and brutal simplicity

As a perennially-broke college-going student, I did most of my shopping from the 'Maidan Market' in Kolkata — so-called due to its proximity to the maidans in the heart of the city in the Esplanade area, it is the go-to place for mostly export rejects and fake brands at knocked-down prices. Not unlike Linking Road or Fashion Street in Mumbai.

Still, the white T-shirt that cost Rs 150 without any logo, would become Rs 300 if it bore even a hand-stitched 'Benetton' or 'Levi's' across the chest. It made immense business sense for the sellers to just attach a rubber print and gain double the money. And for cash-strapped buyers like me, it meant sharing the stardust of a brand at an affordable price.

This analogy will make it clear how the Islamic State has been able to successfully glamourise terror and then make it affordable so that anyone, who posses neither the skill nor the enterprise — just an iron will to kill people and get killed — can take part in the macabre ritual of murders.

Ambulances line up near the scene of an attack after a truck drove on to the sidewalk and plowed through a crowd of revelers who'd gathered to watch the fireworks in the French resort city of Nice on Thursday night. AP

Ambulances line up near the scene of an attack after a truck drove on to the sidewalk and plowed through a crowd of revelers who'd gathered to watch the fireworks in the French resort city of Nice on Thursday night. AP

Fast-developing facts are still shaping the discourse, but what we do know at this moment about yet another horrible attack in France is that at least 80 people were killed in the French Riviera city of Nice late on Thursday when a truck driver ploughed into a large crowd gathered for a fireworks show on Bastille Day, the French national holiday.

It is still unclear whether the driver had an accomplice but the crash that left 84 people dead including several children and 14 seriously injured, is being treated as a terrorist attack. According to witnesses, the driver was apparently “zig-zagging” so he could hit as many people as possible. French local media has reported that the attacker drove into the crowd for two kilometres at a speed of about 50 kmph.

One eyewitness stated that 'bodies were flying like bowling pins' along with 'noises, cries that I will never forget' as the horror unfolded on a busy promenade in the southern city of Nice at around 10.30 pm local time.

The identity of the driver who was shot dead is still unclear but papers belonging to a 31-year-old French-Tunisian resident of Nice as well as "guns" and "larger weapons" were found inside the bullet-ridden truck.

The truck driver was said to have shouted 'Allahu Akbar' before being killed. Though no terrorist group has claimed responsibility, pro-Islamic State groups have been celebrating the attack. French President François Hollande has said it was clearly a “terrorist” act.

“Nothing will make us yield in our will to fight terrorism. We will further strengthen our actions in Iraq and in Syria. We will continue striking those who attack us on our own soil,” he said, in reference to the Islamic State.

It's fairly clear that unlike 13 November, 2015 Paris attacks — a series of coordinated terrorist strikes by suicide bombers and shooters — this wasn't carried out by an organised group.

And therein lies the impossibility of preventing these strikes.

You may blame French intelligence, and questions are already being raised over their repeated failures, but how do you stop anyone from attacking who are inspired by the radical terror ideology of "If you're not able to find an IED or a bullet... run him over"? A quote attributed by international terror watchdog SITE Intelligence Group to Muhammad al-Adnani in one of his first speeches as the newly-appointed ISIS spokesman in 2014. Adnani said to use cars to run over the infidel (disbeliever).

The Nice attacks shows once again how the Islamic State and other global jihad groups have come to rely less on elaborate terror strikes. These require huge amounts of money and planning, and runs the risk of being busted by counter-terrorism intelligence. So they have simply turned terrorism into a brand through their slick, professionally produced videos of decapitations and stoning and burning and throwing people off tall buildings.

This develops the Islamic State brand, glorifies terror and brings it within the reach of anyone who is willing to kill and get killed for a never-ending jihad against the disbelievers. Most don't even need any grand motivation like the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate.

It is practically impossible to put every citizen of every country under perennial watch in the fear that one of them could become self-radicalised and launch a terror strike.

As Hollande fulminates after yet another strike on his soil, his helplessness against the hydra becomes evident.

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Updated Date: Jul 15, 2016 14:15:05 IST

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