EU’s security crisis and the lack of response by the authorities

The security situation in Italy and in Europe in general is far from under control, that is an evident fact and the wave of violence that has marked various countries since the beginning of September is a sign that should not be underestimated by the authorities.

A mix of criminal acts and terrorist attacks that point out a series of unsolved issues such as the uncontrolled immigration flow from both, the African and the Balkan routes, that bring potentially dangerous individuals and even terrorists into Europe, disguised among the thousands immigrants fleeing from their home countries. Another aspect that cannot be overlooked is the lack of preparation by the European judicial system and the law enforcement in dealing with a type of violence that was previously unseen in Europe.

The cases

On September 17th a 23 year-old Yemeni refugee, identified as Mahamed Fathe, attacked a military unit stationed outside Milan’s Central train station with a pair of scissors while yelling “Allahu akbar”, wounding a soldier patrolling the area, before being taken down and blocked by 51 year-old Senegalese citizen Diagne Samba, who was just passing nearby. A video shot by Russian tourists as well as local witnesses have exposed how the unit appeared paralyzed during the attack and some even raised the question of what would have happened if Mr. Diagne hadn’t been there.

Pictures of Mahamed Fathe’s violent attack against a military unit stationed outside Milan’s Central train station (Source: Il Giornale)

Eventually it turned out that the 23 year-old Yemeni was already known to Italian authorities as he had already created problems the previous night by climbing a roof and threatening other refugees with a pen. He was taken in by the police for identification, however the following day the Mahamad Fathe was free to wonder around and attack the units patrolling the station. In his phone the investigators found videos of the war in Yemen.

On October 3rd a French police employee originally from the Martinique killed four people and wounded two at the Paris police headquarters before being shot by an agent. It turned out that the attacker, identified as Mickael Harpon, had converted to Islam in 2008 and was close to Salafi and jihadist individuals. Paradoxically, Harpon was an employee for the informatic unit of the DRPP, the police intelligence unit, which means that he had access to confidential information regarding radicalized individuals. The perfect infiltrator. As if it wasn’t enough, after the attack, the police found a pen drive belonging to Harpon which contained sensitive data on his colleagues, jihadist propaganda videos and images of beheading. The pen drive was found in Harpon’s office inside the police headquarter.

On the same day in the Italian central city of Fermo a Nigerian illegal immigrant armed with a machete walked up and down in the middle of a busy street threatening drivers and pedestrians before being arrested by the police. The scene was caught on video. After his arrest it turned out that the Nigerian had already been detained on August 29th and he should have been expelled, but for some reason he was out on the streets again one month later. [1]

On October 4th in the Italian border-city of Trieste two police officers were disarmed and murdered with their own weapons by 29 year-old Dominican citizen Alejandro Meran, inside the Trieste central police station, before being wounded and arrested by other officers. According to the reconstruction of the event, Meran (who had not been handcuffed) asked to go to the bathroom and was escorted by only one agent who was suddenly attacked and shot with his own handgun; Meran then fatally shot another agent and opened fire inside the police headquarter, wounding several others, before fleeing to the street where he was consequently wounded and arrested.

On October 8th a 32 year-old Syrian refugee stole a truck and crashed it against motorists waiting in line in the German city of Limburg. The individual was already known to authorities for drug offences. The following day a neo-Nazi identified as 27 year-old Stephane Balliet attacked a synagogue in the east German city of Halle while the Jewish community was celebrating the day of Yom Kippur, killing two worshipers. The death toll could have been much higher if the synagogue entrance door hadn’t been secured from the inside.

Again, on the same day, in Genoa a Nigerian immigrant was found in possession of a 20cm long machete that had been disguised inside a bag. The episode occurred inside the “Principe” train station. [2]

On October 12th in the Italian city of Forte dei Marmi a police man confronting an attacker armed with two knives lost his handgun as the obsolete gun holster broke away from the belt. It was a miracle that the attacker did not manage to grab the weapon, as the officer managed to keep him away with the baton. [3]

The previous day in the Sicilian city of Castelvetrano a Tunisian with criminal history had managed to steal the gun from an agent belonging to the local police, before being disarmed and arrested. [4] A similar episode had occurred in Rome on October 8th, when a Nigerian had tried to disarm a police officer in the “Esquilino” area. [5]

Ten different attacks, with different dynamics, motivations and objectives, taking place in three major European countries in a timeline of 26 days. Ten attacks that show a series of different and very serious security failures. The authorities involved must indeed take immediate action because the situation can only deteriorate.

The infiltration of Islamist radicals within the French public structures (police, army, public transportation etc) was well known and it is not a case that since November 2018 the two French parliament members Eric Diard and Eric Poulliat have been presenting a series of reports on such issue to different State officials. [6] However, once the virus is inside the body, it takes time to get rid of it, especially if its latent phase is prolonged.

Regarding the Halle synagogue attack, the German authorities clearly failed the preventive measures even though it is well known that the Yom Kippur is a sensitive day for potential terror attacks against the Jewish community. The only reason that prevented a massacre is the fact that the synagogue had a strong ironclad door that had been locked from the inside.

A fragment of the Synagogue’s attack in Germany during the celebration of the Yom Kippur (Source: The Wall Street Journal)

As to the Italian cases, it seems that attacking law enforcers and military personnel has become as trendy among assailants as it is for the Nigerians to walk around with machetes. This is a very serious issue because the message that is being passed along sounds much like a “do whatever you want, take their weapons, attack them, because they cannot respond”.

Such situation must be properly understood as the responsibility does not belong to the individual agents involved in the attacks (who are just “victims” of the system they belong to), but rather on their high superiors who do not put them in the best conditions to operate (is it possible that some police officers still have to carry guns inside hard paper-made holsters?). On the judicial system that still refers to laws and rules that are obsolete and unsuitable nowadays as they were thought for a different era, when crime wasn’t as violent as it is today.

Thirty years ago it would have been unthinkable to imagine a train inspector being attacked with a machete just for asking a group of teens to see their tickets, but that is what happened in Milan in June 2015, when inspector Carlo Di Napoli was attacked by a group of Latin American gang members belonging to MS13[7]. It would also have been unthinkable to see a gang member being murdered, chopped and buried in the fields by his own “hermanos”, but that’s what happened in March 2019 and not in El Salvador, instead in San Giuliano Milanese. [8]

Today the law enforcers have to deal an imported type of criminality that is way more violent, while having to worry about “not using excessive force” as they run the risk of being persecuted by the judicial for accusation such as “torture”.

Overall, Europe has to deal with new major security threats related to imported crime and terrorism. If the Authorities of the EU-member states do not take immediate action in order to adapt the legislative and judicial mechanisms to the new typology of threats the situation in the medium-short term will only further deteriorate; additionally, the longer this process will take and the more likely it will be that drastic measures will be necessary. EU citizens clearly do not want to see the violence that is so common in Africa and Latin America taking over in Europe as well , but that is exactly the direction where the Old Continent is currently heading.

Six different attacks, in a timeline of 23 days, involving three major EU countries. A clear sign that something is not working within Europe’s security machine. These attacks bring to surface a series of significant security failures such as the infiltration of an Islamist extremist within a sensitive intelligence structure in France (let’s not forget that the infiltration of Islamist extremists and jihadists inside the French public sector, including law enforcement, is a current issue that is alarming the institutional arena). Regarding the Halle synagogue attack, the German authorities clearly failed the preventive measures even though it is well known that the Yom Kippur is a sensitive day for potential terror attacks against the Jewish community. The only reason that prevented a massacre is the fact that the synagogue had a strong ironclad door that had been locked from the inside.

Then there are three cases involving immigrants, in Italy and Germany, three cases that emphasize how the filters to select those who are entering the EU are simply not working and that is obviously no surprise as the immigrants keep flowing into Europe from all directions without any type of effective selection process, as facts clearly demonstrate.

In addition, the two Italian cases show a lack of ability by Italian law enforcers and military units in dealing with threats, specifically in the Milan’s Central station attack against a military unit, where the attacker was taken down by a 51-year old Senegalese man. What would have happened if he hadn’t been there?

It is evident that EU’s technocrats are unable to provide proper solutions to the security needs of the citizens as crime, social tension and terror threats are on the rise. Such a situation can only provide more votes for the right-wing parties as European feel betrayed by their own institutions and this process will hardly be halted unless the EU comes up with immediate solutions, something that is unlikely to happen in the short-medium term.

References

[1] https://www.youtvrs.it/catturato-lo-straniero-col-machete-il-sindaco-calcinaro-gia-espulso/
[2] https://www.ilsecoloxix.it/genova/2019/10/09/news/genova-attraversa-i-binari-in-stazione-a-principe-con-una-mannaia-nello-zaino-denunciato-1.37723728?fbclid=IwAR1CIna9NSxFdEbIaVbExXJu_dYjrGWbqCPN9iftfL2aX6udGYdzzY1TXDo
[3] https://www.iltempo.it/cronache/2019/10/12/news/poliziotto-aggredito-la-fondina-si-rompe-e-l-arma-cade-a-terra-1223959/
[4]http://www.ilgiornale.it/news/palermo/ruba-pistola-vigilessa-arrestato-tunisino-1767041.html
[5]https://www.ilmessaggero.it/roma/news/roma_cerca_sfilare_pistola_poliziotto_nigeriano_arrestato-4784535.html?fbclid=IwAR2Lgc0L6qFeBFpnk-EksHSANPeGLLzgGWqLPD5m022XMhwjSUhThQfRx4Y
[6] https://www.lepoint.fr/societe/services-publics-face-a-l-islamisme-des-temoignages-edifiants-19-06-2019-2320021_23.php
[7] https://www.ilgiorno.it/milano/cronaca/capotreno-aggredito-machete-1.3385378
[8] https://www.ilgiorno.it/milano/cronaca/morto-cascina-latinos-1.4491560


AUTHOR

Giovanni Giacalone. A senior analyst for the Italian Team for Security, Terroristic Issues and Managing Emergencies (ITSTIME) in Milan’s Catholic University and a contributor for Il Giornale/Inside Over. Sociologist with an MA in Islamic Studies at Trinity Saint David University of Wales and a specialization in terrorism and counter-terrorism. His main areas of expertise are terrorism and radicalization and his research activities currently focus on Islamist extremism and jihadism in the Mediterranean area.