Newly-installed Home Secretary Amber Rudd has given a detailed statement to Parliament following the terrorist attack in Nice that occurred at the Promenade des Anglais on Thursday 14 July. At least 84 people were killed when a heavy goods lorry was deliberately driven into crowds of people enjoying Bastille Day celebrations. Ten of the dead are believed to be children and teenagers. More than 200 individuals have been injured, while a number remain in a critical condition.
This is the third terrorist attack in France in the last 18 months, realising a high number of deaths. There have also been terrorist episodes in many other countries of late, among them Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Turkey and America as well as those perpetrated during the ongoing conflict taking place in Syria.
“Following the attack in Nice, the police and the security and intelligence agencies here in the UK took steps to review our own security measures and ensure that we have robust procedures in place,” stated Rudd. “I’m receiving regular updates. All police forces have reviewed upcoming events taking place in their regions to ensure that security measures are both appropriate and proportionate.”
The Home Secretary continued: “The UK has considerable experience in managing and policing major events. Extra security measures are used at particularly high profile events, including – where the police assess there to be a risk of vehicle attacks – the deployment of measures known as the ‘National Barrier Asset’. This is made up of a range of temporary equipment including security fences and gates that enables the physical protection of sites.”
Since the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2008, the UK Government has also taken steps to improve the response of police firearms teams and other Emergency Services to a marauding gun attack.
“We have protected and, in real terms, increased counter-terrorism police funding for 2016 to 2017,” assured Rudd, “and over the next five years we are providing £143 million for the police to further boost their firearms capability. We continue to test our response capabilities to terrorist attacks – including learning the lessons from attacks like those we’ve seen in France – through national exercises which involve the Government, the military, the police service and other agencies.”
Confronting hateful propaganda
Rudd went on to state: “The UK has in place strong measures to respond to terrorist attacks and, since taking office in 2010, the Government has orchestrated significant steps to bolster that response. Daesh and other terrorist organisations seek to poison people’s minds. They peddle sickening hate and lies to encourage people to plot acts of terrorism or leave their families to join them. This isn’t just in France, or this country, but in nations all around the world. We must confront this hateful propaganda and expose it for what it is. In this country, that means working to expose the emptiness of extremism and safeguarding vulnerable people from becoming radicalised.”
The Home Secretary believes that the terrorism threat is “an international problem that requires an international solution”. On that basis, the Government is working closely with its European partners, allies in the Counter-Daesh Coalition and those most affected by the threat posed by Daesh to share information, build counter-terrorism capability and exchange Best Practice.
“Nice was attacked on Bastille Day, itself a French symbol of liberation and national unity,” concluded Rudd. “Those who attack seek to divide us and spread hatred. Our resounding response must be one of ever greater unity between different nations, but also between ourselves. What happened in Nice last Thursday was cruel and incomprehensible. The horror and devastation is something many people will live with for the rest of their lives. We will stand with the French people and support them in the fight against terror. Together with our partners around the world, we will defeat those who seek to attack our way of life.”
Attacks against aviation interests
Dr Simon Bennett (director of the Civil Safety and Security Unit at the University of Leicester’s School of Management) has also commented in the aftermath of last week’s horrific terrorist atrocity in Nice.
“In recent months,” said Dr Bennett, “there have been several attacks against aviation interests, including airports. Numerous journalists have asked me whether airport security should be tightened further. My response has been that we should look at the problem of security through the prism of crime displacement. As soon as one hardens one type of target, like airport terminals, terrorists will then start attacking non-hardened targets, such as famous boulevards. Academics call this phenomenon crime displacement. Today, Nice. Tomorrow, London?”
Dr Bennett added: “While there’s understandable shock at the Nice attack, one should be mindful of the fact that, as David Cameron puts it, the West is in an ‘existential struggle’ with global terrorism. Put simply, free societies are at war with global terrorism. In war, casualties – both military and civilian – are to be expected. The prism of ‘Total War’ lends recent events such as those that have taken place in Paris, Brussels and Nice a certain macabre perspective.”