October 4, 1972: Bookstore bombing in Paris

It is ironic when a terrorist group is itself hit by a terrorist attack.

PARIS, FRANCE — Like a lot of people I enjoy a really well written (or dramatised) whodunit. The twists and turns of the plot, the false leads, the paths that lead nowhere and, of course, the ultimate discovery of the real culprit are great forms of entertainment.

This genre has been with us for a very long time and there is no shortage of offerings on streaming services (Netflix or, my favourites, UK channels Acorn and Britbox) to keep us riveted.

I suppose we owe a debt of thanks to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie, two great British writers, for this ‘chapter’ in literature. Whether it is Sherlock Holmes using science to catch the bad guy, or Hercule Poirot and all his Belgian precision to identify the evildoer, we are all the better for this kind of story.

There are times when terrorist attacks become whodunits, yes, with false leads and wonky conclusions as well. When the Madrid train attacks occurred in 2004 Spanish officials initially blamed Basque separatists (such as the ETA terrorist group). It turned out that Spanish Islamist terrorists were behind the carnage that claimed almost 200 lives.


On this day in 1972

A similar red herring took place in 1972 in Paris. On October 4 of that year a bomb exploded at a bookstore run by the Palestine Liberation Organisation, itself a terrorist group, wounding two people. The perpetrators claimed to be Zionist extremists.

Except it turned out that they were far right neo-Nazi terrorists hoping that their act would ignite a war between French Arabs and Jews (mirroring, I suppose the conflict between Israel and Palestine). They were not successful in the end.

The lesson here? Do not jump to conclusions, something far too many pseudo ‘experts’ do these days of instant news and 24-hour coverage. Wait for the facts to come in. Allow the professionals to do their job.

And always know that the butler did it.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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