At approximately 7 pm on June 20th, an individual armed with a 5 inches-long knife attacked groups of people in Forbury Gardens, a park near the center of Reading, about 40 miles west of London. The attacker, who was also heard shouting incomprehensible words, managed to kill three people and injure three more before being tackled to the ground by a police officer and arrested. The incident was treated by British authorities as “terror-related”.
On 27 June 2020, the suspect was charged with three counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder and appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 29 June 2020.
The identity of the attacker
The attacker, identified as 25 years-old Libyan refugee Khairi Saadallah, had fled the North-African country in 2012 and had a remarkable criminal background in the UK as he was arrested six times for 15 crimes between 2015 and 2019. Saadallah was also diagnosed with PSTD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and paranoid-schizophrenia. It is also interesting to notice how, in a photo of Saaldallah published by the Daily Mail, a forearm shows what seem to be self-inflicted blade wounds.
He had caught the attention of the MI5 over information that he was thinking about heading for Libya or Syria to join the jihadists, but the story was not considered credible.
Khairi Saadallah had been sentenced, in October 2019, to 28 months of prison for breaching a suspended jail term after being charged with assault and knife possession but was released early, just two weeks before the Reading attack (just like Sudesh Mamoor, the Streatham High Road attacker). Saadallah had been involved in the government’s Prevent deradicalization program, just like the Westminster bridge attacker Usman Khan (2019), Parson’s Green bomber Ahmed Hassan (2017) and the Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi (2017).
One of Saadallah’s neighbors claimed that a close relative of Khairi had fought in the Libyan civil war against former President Muhammar Ghedafi and according to acquaintances, Khairi had also bragged about having fought against the former regime.
The following day, the AS-Source News Twitter account posted the image of an old “February 17th Revolutionary Brigade” card with the photo of a young individual looking very much like Khairi Saadallah and by the name Khairi Jamal Mohamed.
The “February 17th Revolutionary Brigade” is known as a former Islamist militia that had also joined the ranks of Ansar al-Sharia in Libya, before being dismantled. Some of its men had also fought in Syria against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
The US President, Donald Trump, indicated that Antifa will soon be formally designated as a terrorist group, following the riots that took place in different US cities after George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis.
Antifa’s roots in America can be traced back as early as the 1970s and the group is often described as “far-left” with extremist anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist views that can embrace anarchism, communism, and socialism.
Antifa activists have recently attracted public attention for their provocations and violent attacks at political rallies and demonstrations.
Leaving aside Antifa’s history and ideology, it is worth focusing on what the peculiarities of the group are, because blacklisting it as a terrorist organization might not be as easy as it seems. It must also be noted that the Department of Homeland Security formally classified Antifa’s activities as “domestic terrorist violence” back in 2016 when its activists began to attract attention for attacks against Trump supporters and police officers.
President Trump’s statements regarding the blacklisting of the Antifa movement have been followed by opinions of experts and officials pointing out how Antifa is not an organization, but rather an ideology. As FBI Director, Cristopher Wray , explained:
“For us, Antifa we view as more of an ideology than an organization…We have quite a number though, I should tell you, of properly predicated investigations of what we categorize as ‘anarchist extremists,’ people who are trying to commit violent, criminal activity that violates federal law, and some of those people do subscribe to what we would describe as — to what we would refer to as kind of an Antifa-like ideology.”
If we try to isolate some characteristics of the Antifa group we will come up with some interesting elements:
Antifa is far from a traditional terrorist organization (such as the IRA, al-Qaeda, or FARC) as it presents no hierarchical leadership structure and no chain of command and control.
Antifa could be seen as a “movement” composed of different groups and individuals acting autonomously while spontaneously sharing information.
The affiliation of its members can often be indicated as “loose” and mainly focused on informal relations and exchange of information.
A “loose” membership implies that an activist or a sympathizer might simply join a demonstration, perpetrate violence and then go back to a normal life routine without even being in touch with any of the more coordinated groups. Would this be sufficient to classify an individual as “a member of a terrorist organization”?
Additionally, those who share the Antifa ideology but do not promote violence can be classified as terrorists? Is the Antifa ideology intrinsically violent? This is another tough question because, unlike the jihadist ideology with its specific violent traits, Antifa has a wide range of ideologies and views (not necessarily violent) within its movement, and as a consequence, it is very hard to define.
If Isis has broken the traditional structural rules of jihadis organizations by permitting individual self-claimed affiliation, often manifested after an attack through a video recording or a letter, Antifa is even further from that as it provides no clear organizational structure or ideology.
The main issue regards the use of violence, theoretical or practical, because an incitement to violence will very likely find someone willing to carry it out. For instance, a call for jihad is as dangerous as its practical application and it is in fact the first step to a potential attack.
Hence, it is not a problem of ideology or cause, but rather of method and for this purpose, it is worth mentioning the definition of “terrorism” proposed by Dr. Boaz Ganor, director of the Israel-based International Institute for Counter-Terrorism:
“Terrorism is the intentional use of, or threat to use violence against civilians or against civilian targets, in order to attain political aims”.
This definition includes three main factors that are all essential:
The core of the activity, the modus operandi: VIOLENCE – if it does not involve violence or a threat of violence, then it cannot be classified as “terrorist”;
The objective or motivation: POLITICAL – The political objective defines the action as “terrorist”. In the absence of this, the incident can be classified as “criminal”;
The target of the attack: CIVILIAN – The violence is directed at civilian targets. As indicated by Ganor: “Terrorism exploits the relative vulnerability of the civilian “underbelly”—the tremendous anxiety, and the intense media reaction evoked by attacks against civilian targets”.
If we are in the presence of these three factors, then we can consider the incident as a terrorist attack. As a consequence, an organization, a group or a simple violent action should be examined on the basis of its action, rather than on its ideology or cause. This approach could somehow simplify the Antifa dilemma, even if we are still far from a solution.
On April 27th 2020 a black Bmw Class 1 driven by 29 years-old French citizen Youssef Tihlah rammed against two police motor-bikers while they were checking a Peugeot 508 on Boulevard de Valmy near the intersection with Avenue Clementine (a small dead-end road) in Paris commune of Colombes . The two agents were seriously injured as one of their motorbikes was smashed against the police car behind and the other one was bounced in the middle of the street.
The attacker stated to have conducted the terror attack in the name of Isis after seeing a video on Palestine and that he wanted to die after killing police agents. The police found a knife in the glove compartment of his vehicle and a letter slipped into the sun visor where the author indicates his Islamist motivation.
Youssef Tihlah is accused of “Attempted assassinations of persons holding public authority in connection with a terrorist enterprise” since, according to sources, the attacker was animated by an “anti-Western ideology”.
Tihlah was not known by authorities as a radicalized individual but he as known by friends and relatives as a pro-Palestinian.
As reported by Le Figaro, Youssef Tihlah displayed behavioral problems, at least according to a medical file that was provided to the investigators; however, a psychiatric examination conducted Tuesday morning concluded that there was no absence or alteration of judgment on behalf of the attacker. Further investigations have indicated that Youssef Tihlah turned out to be extremely political, with a strong knowledge of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and with a strong interest in Mali, Somalia and other areas where French forces have conducted anti-jihadist operations.
The confusing reconstructions
While the dynamics of the ramming that severely injured the two officers are quite clear, it is not possible to say the same about what occurred before the attack. In fact, reconstructions available throughout the media point out how there is an interesting chronology that must be taken into account, so let’s start from the beginning.
Sometime earlier in the afternoon (no specific time has been indicated), an individual riding a T-Max scooter was being chased by the police on A86 autoruote, no more than 300 meters away from the site where the ramming occurred.
At a certain point the T-Max rider abandoned the vehicle and jumped inside a black Peugeot 508 with a driver waiting inside. As the car took off, it was immediately reported to other police patrols. At this point it becomes unclear if a proper chase took place, or if the car was spotted sometime later in the afternoon and that is due to the lack of information regarding the time of the initial chase with the T-Max. However, the same Peugeot was then spotted at the intersection between Boulevard de Valmy and Avenue Clementine, where the attack took place. The heavy presence of police at the site (4 motorbikes and two cars according to witnesses) and the proximity to A86 make the chase very plausible.
In any case, approximately after ten minutes (according to witnesses), while the police officers were conducting the check on the Peugeot, the black Bmw driven by Tihlah jumped into the scene and rams against the police.
One element that makes the whole picture further unclear is the fact that the driver of the Peugeot, a 23 years-old with previous convictions for narcotics, was found alone on board. The presence in the car of a second individual was later confirmed when a 22 years-old spontaneously turned himself in to the police. However, it is still not clear if he is the same man who was driving the T-Max.
Photos taken from the scene of the attack show a first moment when the passenger door is found open and a second image with the door closed, taken later as police and medics reached the secen. Who initially opened the door? Was it the driver in order to get off the car? If yes, Why? Or was there another passenger that quickly got off the car, leaving it open?
One witness who saw the whole scene from the window of his flat claimed that the Peugeot initially tried to turn right, but it had to stop as the road shows a dead-end signal; at that point a young individual got off the car and rushed away. The police immediately reached the car and after approximately 10 minutes, while the agents were checking vehicle and driver, the Bmw rammed into the officers.
According to the latest news, the two individuals are not being investigated for the terror attack perpetrated by Tihlah, which means that the authorities do not believe that the ramming was the last phase of a coordinated attack in order to attract agents into a trap.  Authorities have not released the identities of the two.
If properly used, technology can be a very important ally to face local and global problems. The war against Covid-19 is clearly one of those problems and many countries, especially in Asia, are putting in place technological solutions to overcome it and to ensure national security.
In the following analysis we will examine some of the technological answers to the Covid-19 pandemic in China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore and Israel.
China’s government asked for the support of tech giants. On messaging and payment apps (WeChat and Alipay) they made it possible for users to insert the place they visited in the previous days, their ID, as well as if they have been in contact with anyone hospitalized. It is very likely that, since those apps already registered social and consuming habits of users, the government used big data analysis to gain as much information as possible on its citizens. The apps compare the location data of the user with the health status of people who travelled across the same areas. Depending on the probability that the subject had contact with people tested positive for COVID-19, he will eventually receive a QR code based on a three-level security system: “red” requires the individual to stay in quarantine for a period of 14 days; conversely, “yellow” and “green” means that the individual must exhibit the QR code on his mobile to have partial or total access to public areas.
China is also using specific hardware to contain the infection. For example, Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen deployed contactless temperature checking tools in schools, subway stations and community centers; these tools alert authorities when people with abnormal body temperature are detected. A Chinese AI firm worked to improve those tools in order to enable them to identify citizens who are not wearing masks. In the city of Chengtu, the capital of Sichuan, officials are using smart helmets to measure people’s temperature within 5 meters.
The Chinese police is using CCTVs and drones to complete its surveillance apparatus. The government pointed cameras at the apartment doors of those under quarantine and it is also using drones integrated with speakers to monitor and provide people with directives. Some videos show drones telling citizens to keep proper distance, walk faster and wear masks; in addition, they even recommended old people to go home. In some cases, people complained that new cameras were installed right in front of their homes.
The other example of technology used to avoid any form of contact with isolated subjects is showed in a Hangzhou hotel where robot-waiters were used to deliver meals to quarantined travellers.
The methodology implemented in China, a highly technological country, as well as the first one undertaking the fight against the coronavirus, has been looked at by other countries as a model to follow.
One peculiarity of the special administrative region of Hong Kong is the use of an electronic bracelet. Because most of the contagion cases are imported from abroad, all travellers reaching the city from overseas are obliged to wear the wristband, download an app, StayHomeSafe, and scan the unique QR code printed on the bracelet. Once the subject reaches his accommodation, he has to walk around the apartment so that the wrist tracker can detect the perimeter. This geofencing technology allows authorities to be alerted when someone wearing a bracelet goes out of the digital fence.
The South Korean government also used big data such as: credit card transactions, videos from CCTV cameras and smartphone localization (from both GPS and transceivers). When the authorities spot a potential COVID-19 case, they conduct a verbal investigation asking questions on symptoms and personal contacts with others. The final result is the coronamap, available on the internet, which informs the citizens when and if a place was visited by a subject detected as positive to COVID-19.
The city-state also developed an app, TraceTogether, which uses a technique which is different from the ones used by the other countries: it doesn’t track data from the GPS but uses Bluetooth signals to detect if users have been near one another and for how long. In other words, this system doesn’t focus on the locations but rather on interactions. This data, mixed with health ministry information on infected citizens, allows the detection of people who may have been in contact with COVID-19 positive subjects and consequently be contacted by an operator who will ask to map their movements and interactions.
The Middle-East state applied the anti-terrorism monitoring methodology and technology to track down where people have been by using phone location data. In the past few years, the Shin Bet (the internal security service) has already been collecting the movements of citizens for counter-terrorism purposes and now a government decree has allowed the secret service to use these data for the Covid-19 emergency. Additionally, Israel is encouraging the population to download an app, המגן – the Shield, which compares the locations data on the smartphone with the Health Ministry database. In this way, the user receives an alert if he has potentially been in contact with a COVID-19 positive individual.
Technologies are always beneficial if correctly used and that is the enormous critical point. All over the world technological solutions raise social and privacy concerns. In times of crisis like the ones we are now facing, it seems necessary to renegotiate the balance between security and freedom. Countries have the moral duty to commensurate their response to the emergency with proportionate measures. Many citizens are not worried so much by the eventual power achieved by governments during the crisis, but rather by the fact that governments might maintain such measures after the crisis.
The ultimate problem relies in the fact that “the right thing to do”, in relation to ethics, proportion and correctness of measures, will only be confirmed or refuted by the results and the impacts that will emerge in the future.
The following is a list of episodes, retrieved through open source search, that includes murders and violent attacks perpetrated with machetes, knives, picks or broken bottles in a timeline that goes from 2007 to 2019 within the province of Milan.
In March 2007, an 18 years-old Ecuadorian national and Latin Kings Chicago member was stabbed to death by a fellow countryman belonging to the rival “Comando” street gang. The murder occurred outside a disco located in eastern Milan. 
In July 2008, an 18th Street gang member was attacked by a group of MS13 members; in the fight, the individual lost an eye as a consequence of wounds inflicted with a machete. The episode occurred in south Milan during a Salvadoran festival. 
In June 2009, an Ecuadorian citizen and leader of the Latin Kings NY street gang was stabbed to death by rival gang members outside a disco club in south Milan. 
In September 2010, four members of the gangs Latin Kings NY and MS13 were arrested for the beating and stabbing of a Latin Kings Chicago gang member outside “Cobà” disco in Milan. 
In February 2010, an Egyptian citizen was stabbed to death by a Dominican citizen who was riding a bus with two friends in Milan’s via Padova. The Dominicans turned out to be close to the Trinitario gang, even if there have been no confirmations about their full membership. 
In January 2011, an Ecuadoran citizen member of the gang Trinitario was stabbed to death by a group of Peruvian citizens belonging to the “Comando” street gang in Cinisello. 
In September 2011, a gang member is attacked and wounded with belts and a knife inside a bus near Milan’s Piazzale Lodi. 
In October 2011, a Trebol gang member is severely wounded with a knife outside the disco “Secreto” in via Boncompagni. 
In November 2011, an MS13 gang member was attacked and wounded by rival gang members armed with a machete; the raid occurred inside a store in central Milan, not far from the notorious Duomo square. 
In January 2012, a Latin American young individual is beaten, stabbed and robbed by a group of MS13 and Latin Kings NY members inside the Missori subway station. 
In January 2014, a Latin King Luzbel member is wounded with a knife by rival gang members inside the subway in Sesto Rondò. 
In February 2014, two Comando gang members are wounded with a knife in Milan’s De Angeli subway stop. 
In June 2015, a train inspector checking tickets inside a convoy was attacked with a machete by a group of MS13 gang members and his arm was almost amputated in the attack. The episode took place in the Villapizzone train station. 
In May 2016, a 20 years-old Ecuadorian citizen known as “el Loko” and linked to the Latin Kings NY attacked and robbed a Nieta gang member in Porto di Mare’s subway station. 
In July 2016, an 18 years-old Albanian citizen who had nothing to do with street gangs was attacked and stabbed to death by a group of MS13 members while boarding a tram in Milan’s Porta Lodovica area. 
In November 2016, a Dominican drug pusher was shot and stabbed to death in central “Piazzale Loreto” as a consequence of a drug deal gone wrong. The two killers, two Dominican citizens considered close to the Trinitario gang, were soon identified and while one was arrested a few weeks later, the second one is still at large. 
In June 2018, four MS13 members attacked and severely wounded with a screwdriver a young Salvadoran outside a well-known disco in south Milan. 
In February 2019, a Salvadoran citizen and MS13 member was murdered by three other members of his own gang in San Giuliano Milanese. The individual had taken part in the attack against the 18th Street gang member in July 2008. 
In June 2019, a Peruvian citizen was mugged, beaten and thrown inside a river in Milan’s “Lambro” park by two Salvadoran citizens and members of the 18th Street gang. The victim’s dead body was recovered by the police 5 days later. The attackers were identified and arrested shortly after. 
In December 2019, a Salvadoran citizen claiming to be a member of the MS13 gang, severely wounded to the neck a fellow country-man with a broken bottle outside a disco in Milan’s Rovereto area and then fled the scene. The attacker was arrested a few weeks later after robbing a supermarket in south Milan. 
The Latin-American street gang phenomenon in Milan is characterized by an extreme violence that caused 8 deaths in a period of time that goes from 2007 to 2019. While these numbers might not impress cities as New York or Los Angeles, where the street-gang phenomenon has ancient history, they are considered quite alarming in a city of less than 2 million people such as Milan, where the phenomenon is very recent. In addition to the murders, one peculiarity that clearly struck the public opinion is its brutality of such cases, with frequent use of machetes to maim and kill.
Unlike in the US or in Latin America, these groups have no control over the territory in Italy and their violence is mostly oriented against each other, just for the sake of it and defined as “mirror violence” by Italian gang expert Massimo Conte from “Codici Ricerca“. However, there have been some cases of attacks against “outsiders”, people not involved in gangs and street issues.
On February 2nd 2020, at approximately 2pm, a 20 year old individual stole a knife from a shop located on Streatham High Road, London, and he immediately began stabbing civilians passing by. 
Police officers reached the scene approximately one minute after the attacker initiated the assault and shot him dead. The officers saw that a device was strapped to his body and called in specialist explosives officers and additional armed officers to deal with the potential threat. The suicide vest then turned out to be fake. Three civilians were injured in the attack and in the police counter-offensive. 
The attacker, Sudesh Amman, was under police surveillance at the time of the attack as he had just been released from prison and was being hosted at a near-by bail hostel (while in Approved Permises). 
1. Personal Info
Name: Sudesh Mamoor Faraz Amman (20)
DOB: December, 1999
POB: Harrow, Middlesex, United Kingdom
Mother: Hamila Khan (41)
Father: Faraz Khan (44)
Siblings: five younger brothers
Notes about the family:
Sri Lankan origins;
Children brought up by the mother;
Father (described as a womanizer and drinker) left family after meeting another woman and moving back to Sri Lanka;
Social services were involved with the family.
Sudesh Amman was raised in North-East Harrow, home to a vast Sri Lankan Muslim community;
He attended Park High School in Stanmore;
He studied Math and Science at the London North West College (Sept 2017-May 2018). According to his mother, he wanted to study Bio-Medic Sciences;
He attended mosque in traditional clothes.
2. Online Activity
The post-millenial Sudesh Amman was an assiduous internet user.
He spread pro Isis and pro al-Qaeda propaganda through Whatsapp and Telegram. He sent to behading video to his girlfriend telling her to kill her parents, described as “misbelievers”.
In April 2018 Dutch online jihadist hunter and blogger, Azazel van den Berg, captured screenshots showing Amman as having posted an image of a jihadi black flag along with another of two guns and a knife and with the writing “armed and ready” indicating a supposed attack date, the 3rd of April (see the picture).
Screenshot taken from Telegram by the dutch blogger and “jihadwatcher”, Van den Berg
Faraz Amman stated the Quranic legitimacy of raping Yazidi women.
He shared jihadist material in a family group on Whatsapp (which included mother and brothers) where he incited to perpetrate pipe-bomb attacks. He also shared instructions to build improvised explosive devices with an unknown user.
Ha was probably a Call of Duty player (a shooter videogame) and, as he wrote in a Telegram chat, he wanted to bring the game to real life. He claimed: “we want to have fun with hoor al ayn [the virgins in paradise] and play COD irl [play Call of Duty in real life]”. He also used the nickname “stragertothisworld” in online communities. 
3. The Arrest
In May 2018 Faraz Amman was arrested by Met Counter Terrorism agents and charged with nine offences of dissemination of terrorist material and seven offences of collection of information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism, in relation to the material found on his digital devices. He was first been under police observation due to a claim posted on Telegram (see the “armed n rdy” picture above). In December 2018, Faraz Amman was sentenced to three years and four months of prison, but he was released early, on January 23rd 2020. 
During the arrest search in his apartment the police seized:
“US Army Knife Fighting Manual Techniques and Close Combat” (book)
“How to make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom” (article from an al-Qaeda magazine)
“US Army Improvised munition handbook” (book)
“The Anarchist’s cookbook” (book)
He consequently spent 13 month confined in the Belmarsh High Security Prison.
4. Radicalization Path
It is possible to identify two phases in Faraz Amman’s radicalization path.
1st phase, pre-arrest (prior to May 2018)
Influencing factors: male family friend and online activity and contacts.
It is yet unknown if individuals attending the mosques in Harrow may have had any type of influence in Faraz Amman’s radicalization path.
2nd phase, incarceration time (Dec 2018 – Jan 2020)
Influencing factors: supposed socialization with criminals.
5. Acquaintances opinions
Classmates affirmed that he liked to pose in gangster-style look and he had even told them: “When I grow up I am going to be a terrorist”.
They described him as a “weird loner” obsessed with knives and constantly using marijuana.
One former female classmate exposed how Faraz Amman kept saying:“I am going to bomb you…I have got a grenade in my pocket and if you take one step closer to me I am going to set it off.”
Another schoolmate described him as a ‘weird’ dope-smoker who skipped school and showed up in dirty uniform. 
Some neighbors described the family as problematic: “The family was noisy, always trouble in there. The house was smashed up, there were fights inside, holes in the walls”.
Others point them out as a “loving family” and Sudesh Faraz Amman as “a nice and polite boy”.
Another neighbor pointed out to the religious factor: “I used to see him go to the mosque. Before that he was all right and he started going there and he kind of changed, you could see it in him”. 
Sudesh Mamoor Faraz Amman wanted to die as a martyr, as emerged by the written content found by police agents in his notebook and by previous claims made to his former classmates, as well as during the trial.
The notes found by the police expressed a clear motivation: 1- die as a “shahid” (martyr); 2. Go to “Jannah” (heaven); 3- Have fun with the hoor al ayin (virigins); 4- party with his brothers and mother (in heaven). The fact that he was wearing a fake suicide vest only confirms this suicidal tendency, as the intent was plausibly to receive fatal gun shots and to reach heaven.
Faraz Amman took action only 10 days after being released from prison and was under police surveillance. This could very well mean that the individual had clear plans way before his release and that the time spent behind bars only contributed to an additional radicalization.
The ID used by the attacker in some chatrooms (“Stranger to this world”) could indicate how he felt different from others or, eventually, how he wanted to be different. It is also evident how the terrorist “figure” satisfied his need for a new identity.
His fascination for violence (knives, explosives, combat publications, shooting games, beheadings) combined with the traits of a loner who did not hide his thoughts, clearly raised some red flags.
One conclusive consideration must be made in relation to his early release from prison, which remains a big question mark to many. Why did that occur? The British judicial system will have some explaining to do.
According to a leaked classified document of the Direction Générale de la Sécurité Intérieure (DGSI), 150 neighborhoods in Paris and other major French cities’ suburbs such as in Lyon, Toulouse and Marseille are currently controlled by Islamist radicals, as exposed by “Le Journal du Dimanche” (LJD). Additionally, strong Islamist presence was also reported in suburbs of smaller cities throughout the country. 
The objective of this brief comment is not to go into details on the specific situations but rather to point out that the phenomenon should not surprise the public opinion, as the signs of such an outcome was more than predictable and traceable in the following equation: “Islamism and extremist ideology finds an easy way in when there is no institutional control over the territory”.
First of all, it is important to recall how at the end of the 1990’s, French authorities were already aware of the difficult situation involving the suburbs in Paris, Marseille and Lyon. Over 700 of them were classified as declining and sensitive to crime.
Such ghettos are mainly inhabited by 3rd and 4th generations of French citizens of African origin who do not feel part of French society, but rather third-class citizens, neglected by the State. In some of these hoods the general unemployment rate reaches 40% and the youth rate up to 60%.
It is proven that bad economic and social conditions are fertile soil for extremism, as already seen in other contexts in the Balkans and northern Caucasus, for instance.
The riots in the French suburbs in 2005 and 2017 should have been a clear sign that something had to be done, but the situation had been neglected for too long on an institutional level, and the worse it gets, the harder it is to find solutions.
The approximate 1900 foreign fighters who left France to join jihadists in Syria and Iraq are another clear sign of distress within the French society. Going beyond the jihadist phenomenon, there is a precise aspect that often remains unnoticed, the fact that French citizens, many of them coming from the suburbs, (Muslims, but sill French) are willing to risk their lives and embrace another identity.
This means that Islamist radicalism did not only infiltrate the suburbs of major French cities, but it also infiltrated the hearts and minds of many French Muslims. The risk is not only “a State within a State”, as some point out, but also an extraneous identity making its way into the vacuum left by the State.