The immediate knee-jerk reaction to Friday’s three-pronged terrorist onslaught was to tell the international community, “Enough. Stop the hypocrisy.”
The day was one of the most difficult failures ever experienced in the global campaign against terrorism. More specifically, it was a failure in the effort to stop the phenomenon known as Islamic State.
Nearly 100 people were killed in supposedly unrelated terrorist attacks. Thirty-seven tourists – mostly Germans and British – were killed in a resort on the Tunisian coast.
Attacks also claimed the lives of 27 Shi’ite worshipers in a mosque in Kuwait; one man in France who was decapitated; and 30 soldiers from Burundi who were serving in a peacekeeping capacity in Somalia. That’s almost 100 people on three different continents in four countries.
All of the evidence points to ISIS, which took responsibility for the attacks in Tunisia, France and Kuwait. In Somalia, the perpetrators are terrorists belonging to the local outfit al-Shabaab, whose leaders are torn between swearing allegiance to al-Qaida or making common cause with ISIS.
From the Western point of view, there is no significant difference between the two. Both are seen as murderous organizations that have targeted the West, Arab governments, moderate Muslims, Shi’ites and Sunnis.
They are also seen as one and the same by other religions and ethnic minorities in the Middle East, particularly Kurds, Druse and TUI, said they had about 6,400 customers across Tunisia at the time of the attack, including several of the people killed and wounded.
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They sent 10 planes to evacuate tourists and said 1,000 already had been repatriated. They also said they would cancel all their holiday packages to Tunisia for at least the next week.
TUI’s German tour operator TUI also organized flights for tourists wishing to return home and its Belgian airline, Jetairfly, sent six empty planes to bring tourists back from the island of Djerba and from Ennfida airport on Saturday.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier confirmed one German had been killed, but said there may be others.
Tobias Ellwood, a junior minister at the Foreign Office in London, told reporters in London the British death toll could rise, since there were several who had been seriously wounded.
“This is the most significant terrorist attack on British people since 7/7,” he said, referring to attacks on the London transport system on July 7, 2005, that killed 52 people.
Tunisian authorities said the gunman was not on any watch-list of potential terrorists. But one source said Rezgui appeared to have been radicalized over the last six months by Islamist recruiters.
As one countermeasure, Prime Minister Essid said Tunisia plans, within a week, to close down 80 mosques that remain outside state control for inciting violence.
Several thousand Tunisian jihadists have gone to fight in Syria, Iraq and neighboring Libya, where some have set up training camps and vowed to return to attack their homeland.
Meanwhile, Kuwait detained the owner of a car that took a bomber to a Shi’ite mosque to carry out the country’s worst ever terrorist attack, officials said on Saturday, as thousands calling for national unity turned out to bury some of the 27 killed.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing against 2,000 worshipers praying at the Imam al-Sadeq Mosque on Friday. Officials said the bombing was clearly meant to stir enmity between majority Sunnis and minority Shi’ites and harm the comparatively harmonious ties between the sects in Kuwait.
In a statement, the information ministry said Kuwait would faced the situation with “unity and solidarity.”
It reiterated what it called the government’s strong stance on the freedom of religion and opinion, noting these were rights protected by the constitution.
The Interior Ministry, which reported the vehicle owner’s arrest, said it was now looking for the driver who vanished shortly after Friday’s blast in Kuwait, which has been spared the rampant violence of neighboring Iraq and the recent spate of Islamic State bombings of Shi’ite mosques in Saudi Arabia, another neighbor.
A security source told Reuters “numerous arrests” had been made in connection with Friday’s bombing.
At the burial site in the Sulaibikhat district, some waved Kuwaiti flags while others bore the large mourning banners, in red, black or green, that are typical of Shi’ite funerals.
Chants from the crowd included “Brothers of Sunni and Shia, we will not sell out our country;” “No Sunni, no Shia, we are one Islam;” “The martyrs are the beloved of God;” and “Down with Daesh! Down with Daesh,” an acronym for Islamic State.
One group of mourners said they had traveled from Qatif in Saudi Arabia, where 21 people were killed by an Islamic State suicide bombing in May.
Two Iranian nationals were among those killed, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham was quoted as saying by Iranian state media on Saturday.
Relatives of seven of those killed wept and prayed over their shrouded corpses at a mosque on Saturday, where they were waiting to be taken to the Shi’ite holy cities of Najaf and Karbala in Iraq for burial.
In France, a delivery man with known Islamist connections beheaded his boss and left the body, daubed with Arabic writing, at the site of a US-owned gas factory in southeast France before trying to blow up the complex.
The assailant rammed his delivery van into a warehouse containing gas canisters, triggering an initial explosion, and was arrested minutes later as he tried to open canisters containing flammable chemicals, prosecutors said on Friday.
Police found the head of the victim, the 54-year-old manager of the transport firm that employed the suspect, dangling from a fence.
“The head was discovered hanging on the factory’s wire fence, framed by two flags that included references to the shahada, or [Muslim] profession of faith,” Paris public prosecutor Francois Molins told a news conference.
France is still coming to terms with attacks by Islamist gunmen who killed 17 people in January at a satirical weekly newspaper and a Jewish food store.
“There should be no doubt as to our country’s ability to protect itself and remain vigilant,” said President François Hollande, returning to Paris from an EU summit in Brussels.
Hollande said there were inscriptions on the headless body, and police sources said they were in Arabic, but officials did not reveal their content.
No group claimed responsibility for the French attack and the motive was unknown.
The attacker was injured in the blast and arrested at the site. His wife, sister, and a third person were taken into custody for questioning.
Police questioned employees for several hours at the transport company run by the victim and seized the suspect’s car.
A cleaner at a neighboring business described the victim of the attack as a friendly and polite man, “always saying good morning or good evening and have a nice weekend to his staff.”
France, which has contributed aircraft to the international coalition fighting Islamic State insurgents in Iraq, has long been named on Islamist sites as a primary target for attacks.
The site of Friday’s attack belonged to Air Products , a US industrial gases and chemicals company. It was immediately ring-fenced by police and emergency services.
The company’s chairman and chief executive is Seifi Ghasemi, who in 2011 testimony to a US Senate committee described himself as Iranian- born. Mainly Shi’ite Iran is a sworn enemy of Sunni-dominated Islamic State.
There is no evidence the three attacks were deliberately coordinated.
But coming so close together on the same day on three different continents they underscored the far-reaching and fast-growing influence of Islamic State, Western politicians said.
The ultra-radical group, which has claimed direct responsibility for the Kuwait attack, clearly now poses a threat far beyond its heartland in Syria and Iraq.
It urged its followers this week to escalate attacks against Christians, as well as Shi’ites and Sunnis fighting with the US-led coalition.
On June 23, Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani urged jihadists to turn the holy month of Ramadan into a time of “calamity for the infidels... Shi’ites and apostate Muslims.
“Be keen to conquer in this holy month and to become exposed to martyrdom.”
The Pentagon was looking into “whether or not these various and far-flung attacks were coordinated centrally or whether or not they were coincidental,” spokesman Col. Steve Warren said, noting Islamic State had claimed responsibility for one attack.
The US State Department said later there was no indication they were coordinated on a tactical level, but were clearly all terrorist attacks.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said police should be vigilant and prepared, especially ahead of the US Independence Day holiday on July 4.
Britain, which said at least five of its nationals were among those killed in Tunisia, summoned its emergency committee to discuss that attack and the one in France.
“This is a threat that faces all of us, these events that have taken place today in Tunisia and France, but they can happen anywhere – we all face this threat,” British Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.
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