The last year has witnessed an unprecedented wave of Islamic terror attacks in France. With just one exception, all the known perpetrators of the attacks were French citizens and the great majority were born and raised in France. The precipitate identification of the neophyte Belgian jihadist, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, as the “mastermind” behind the November 13th Paris attacks has somewhat obscured their French authorship. But just as with previous attacks, all the known perpetrators, including those who had been living in Belgium, were in fact French citizens, and all the perpetrators of the deadliest attack (on the Bataclan theatre) were French born-and-bred.
The undisputed icon and role model for this new generation of French jihadists is Mohamed Merah. In March 2012, the 23-year-old Merah went on a killing spree in and around his native Toulouse, assassinating three French paratroopers in two separate incidents before pulling up in front of a Jewish school on his signature T-Max motorbike and executing three small children and a teacher at point-blank range. He died in a shootout with police three days later.
For my reflections on an important French exposé on Merah’s life and crimes, see my new review essay in World Affairs here.