March 10, 2012 | Attack in Toulouse, France

Beginning on this day in 2012, Mohamed Merah shot and killed a paratrooper in Toulouse. Five days later he killed three unarmed French soldiers before turning his hatred to a Jewish school on March 19.

Terrorism is scary enough: how much worse is a terrorist attack wave that goes on for more than a week?

TOULOUSE, FRANCE — Most terrorist attacks are over in a heartbeat. An individual or a group gets guns or bombs and attacks a venue, killing and maiming as many as possible as quickly as possible. Sometimes the terrorists themselves kill themselves in the act (suicide bombers): at others they are killed by law enforcement officers.

As bad as these attacks can be I think most would agree that ‘getting it over with’ is preferable to seeing a veritable siege carried out by terrorists. An earlier Today in Terrorism discussed the 2008 Mumbai attacks that lasted days. Having a city on edge for that length of time has to be worse.

The Mumbai incident consisted of acts by an entire cell: it is easier for larger bands to extend attacks simply because there are more people to kill and injure. If one terrorist dies there are others to step into the breach.

Much rarer is a terrorist campaign that is the sole achievement of a single individual. One man is easier to hunt down than more and one man is easier to eliminate (i.e. kill) than more. This is simple math.

2012 attack in Toulouse, France

Today’s featured attack should more accurately be described as a spate of attacks, all perpetrated by the same person: Mohamed Merah. Beginning on this day in 2012 a then unidentified gunman on a motorbike shot and killed a paratrooper in Toulouse, France. Five days later yelling ‘Allahu Akbar’ he killed three unarmed French soldiers in Montauban before turning his hatred to a Jewish school on March 19, where he killed a rabbi and three young children. He himself was killed days later when French special forces raided his apartment.

Following his death the usual litany of explanations for his actions emerged. He was described as a ‘juvenile delinquent’, having been raised by his mother, a ‘loner’ but also a ‘nice guy’: he had served time in prison for theft and driving offences. It was later learned that he had gone to Afghanistan and claimed to be part of Al Qaeda. He also filmed his attacks, a eerily prescient instance we recently saw in Christchurch.

Merah is dead and cannot hurt anyone else. His spree was terrifying, nonetheless and in extreme acts of cowardice he killed unarmed men, a rabbi and some kids. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

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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