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October Today in Terrorism

October 18, 1995: Algerian terrorists suspected in Paris metro bombing

On October 18, 1995  a gas bottle exploded on a train in the Paris metro system, wounding 29

PARIS, FRANCE – Terrorism is seen by many as a post 9/11 scourge: it most definitely is not.

I have always found it odd how many see terrorism as a very recent phenomenon. This is partly due to our collective poor understanding of history (who cares what happened five minutes ago when all that matters is what is on my I-Phone right now?). It is also partly due to the enormity of 9/11 which, I would wager, brought terrorism to the fore for most of us.

Nevertheless, many countries have had to deal with this form of violent extremism for a very long time. Take the UK. Various versions of the IRA (Irish Republican Army) have been around for a century (and even earlier in the guise of the Fenians – see the chapter on this in my latest book The Peaceable Kingdom) and have been carrying out terrorism for a similar amount of time. Germany also dealt with far left groups like the Baader Meinhof Gang, aka the Rote Armee Faktion (Red Army Faction) well before 9/11.

We aren’t called baaaad – er by accident! (Photo: picture-alliance/dpa)

France has long had to combat terrorism, usually of the Islamist variety. Much of this stemmed from anger over French colonies in Africa, most significantly Algeria, as terrorists sought to ‘punish’ France for its ‘sins’. Like today’s featured attack.

On this day in 1995

A gas bottle exploded between the Musee d’Orsay and Saint-Michel–Notre-Dame stations of the Paris metro system, wounding 29. One victim had both legs amputated while still on the train. The Groupe Islamique Arme, the premier Algerian terrorist group was most likely behind this and other incidents in an effort to bring the Algerian civil war to Europe. One of the terrorists was defended by a lawyer who maintained that his client had turned radical only after the Algerian government annulled elections likely to be won by the Islamic Salvation Front in 1992.

Without going as far as the act in question, is it not legitimate to want to react, become involved and oppose?

Defence lawyer Mr. Van der Meulen

So anger over the annulment of an election by the Algerian government justifies the planting of a bomb on a Paris metro? WTF?

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By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. and Director of the National Security programme at the University of Ottawa’s Professional Development Institute (PDI). Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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