Terrorism

The Charlie Hebdo Attack: aftermath?

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Tuesday, January 6th , 2015, in remembrance of the Magi who followed a star to visit the new-born Christ child, epiphany was being celebrated in France with the usual tradition of eating an almond and butter stuffed gallette. Whoever bites on the hidden ornamental figure is pronounced king and wears the paper crown. Very few remember the blood drenching of the day following Epiphany. When the Magi failed to report the location of the Christ child to King Herod, he had every new-born baby massacred.

In a macabre display of blood-letting on the day after Epiphany, two French citizens by birth decided to avenge the insult to the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) who had been satirized in cartoons by the French left-wing weekly Charlie Hebdo in 2006.

The magazine had rerun the Danish Juland Post’s cartoons and added a few of its own. Islam having a strong aniconic tradition, a graphic representation of any of the prophets mentioned in the Holy Qura’an is taken as a deadly insult. That includes Hazrat Issa, (Jesus Christ), Hazrat Musa(Moses) Hazrat Daud (David) and of course Prophet Muhammed (PBUH).

The preceding decades have seen strong criticism of movies such as The Last Passion of Christ, King David, The Ten Commandments and others, banned in most Muslim countries. Although there was no lampooning of the prophets, yet their graphic representation was enough to incense the Islamic world. Muslims do not, by and large, feel that a simile might lead to a metaphor and thus become a pardonable offense. Nor do they appreciate the didactic value of image-based teaching.

Not where their holy prophets are concerned.

Eight years after Charlie Hebdo exercised its Voltairian right to use satire in order to draw public attention to situations in need of remedy, the French born brothers Kouachi burst into the offices of Charlie Hebdo, coolly shot dead the editor, ten of his staff, two police officers, and calmly walked out declaring that they had avenged their prophet.

That may be, but the act has received condemnation from Muslim clerics across the spectrum of the Islamic world.

The perpetrators were cornered in business premises and shot dead by France’s elite GIGN counter-terrorism troops. Their associate had taken hostages in a Kosher supermarket, killed four, and also been shot dead.

The final body count between January 7 and 9 was twenty including the three offenders, with twenty-one injured.

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Paris was terrified and France was outraged.

Some mosques were defaced, but in general there has so far been no repressive backlash on France’s five million Muslims unrelated to this misguided act.

Which, its savagery apart, it is.

Somewhere down the line, the perpetrators gave the perceived interests of the Muslim Umma a higher priority than the land of their birth. They elected themselves judge, jury and hangpersons on the behalf of Muslims who, however incensed they might be on the issue, do not believe it justifies cold blooded murder in the name of their prophet.

The Kouachi brothers had obviously rejected their affiliation with their welfare nation state. That association is one of the foundations of the vaunted French public education system, which failed the Kouachi brothers and the French nation when and where most needed. The Kouachi brothers too, failed their system and deliberately betrayed the land of their birth.

Something is rotten somewhere, in and far beyond the state of Denmark.

Attacking Charlie Hebdo for its cartoons eight years after the commission means that the act hopes to generate a backlash on Muslims, widen communal gulfs and destabilize France. And that is strategy beyond the reach of the Kouachi brothers.

Someone somewhere is pulling global strings following an agenda with strategic objectives. A million marchers in Paris led by forty-eight world leaders bursting with high-calorie semantics that make good press will not impress them.

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Silence of the lambs in Sidney Siege Rescue

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Man Haron Monis, a renegade Muslim cleric single-handedly took a café full of patrons hostage at gunpoint in Sydney on December 14, 2014. Sixteen hours later, he was killed in a tragically successful police or Royal Australian Army rescue bid.

The tragedy is in the number of victims.

To take down a single, inexperienced terrorist, two dead hostages and four wounded including a police officer strikes a very odd note considering the level of anti-terrorist training and international cross-training since 2001.

Across the world, in countries far apart in time, space and state of development, there have been hostage situations involving highly trained, experienced and determined terrorists, outclassing Mosin, a single, auto-didactic terrorist of opportunity.

Yet, in relation to the number of hostages and battle-hardened terrorists, there was either no or minimal loss of life in the rescue operations. There have been no reports of rescuers shooting at each other, as would appear to be the case in Sydney, where one police officer reportedly received shotgun pellets in his face although Mosin is not known to have been armed with a shotgun.

It is also not clear whether Mosin killed the hostages or whether they were shot in a crossfire.

According to The Australian newspaper New South Wales state police commissioner Andrew Scipione “wouldn’t say whether two hostages who were killed – a 34-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman – were caught in crossfire, or shot by the gunman. Among the four wounded was a police officer.”

According to the BBC, the officer reportedly received shotgun pellets in the face and “Local media reports suggest the commandos from the Royal Australian Regiment entered the building after the gunman started firing shots.” These commandos are known to train with the famed British SAS and reckoned pretty good. So they were probably shackled by conflicting civilian decisions emanating from politicians who wanted the police cloned on to their possible success. Or at least, for their sakes, that is what one hopes …

Going in mob-handed led two families into mourning, four others into distress and careers to teeter on a razor’s edge.

Clarification will have to await a highly challenged PR team’s career-salvaging spin.

In the meantime, the most important lesson to be learned here is that of contingency planning and coordination.

Small scale, high intensity operations, in which the lives of innocent civilians hang in the balance are not an arena for inter-service rivalry, hasty planning, testing ground for mediocre training or pride. One, some or all of these appear to have tarnished what could have been an exemplary operation serving as a stellar message to would-be terrorists.

Scrambling for calm, the Australians have also reassured the public that this was the act of a lone gunman.

Perhaps.

Going by the results of the rescue operation, this statement— as hasty as the planning for the rescue bid— might boomerang to haunt the Australian government.

To cut a long story short, this business is a game of tactical chess into which the Australians have never had to sink their teeth except as auxiliaries for American policy. They would do well to train with politically neutral forces such as the British SAS or French Foreign Legion.

Crying victory at this stage would be pre and immature.