Hanau Attacks – A Stark Warning to European Leaders

  • Jean-Patrick Clancy
  • 24.2.2020 14:43

Europe is bracing for one of its tensest years following renewed fears of Islamist terrorism on its soil. All eyes are on Europe’s leading security experts and policymakers as they attempt to tackle such risk following growing instability in the Middle East and Africa. Yet, a concerning trend somewhat overlooked by many remains the growing proliferation of far-right attributed violence. The Hanau attacks should serve a turning point in the way we handle the threat posed by violent right-wing supremacy extremist groups.

Tens of Thousands of people across Germany have gathered to pay tribute to the nine victims of what is now believed to have been a far-right terror attack on two shisha bars in the city of Hanau, East of Frankfurt. The suspected gunman, while reportedly unknown to the authorities, had prior to his murdering rampage posted online videos and a manifesto in which he defended his radical views, urged his viewers to “Fight now”, and promoted the eradication of various nations, listing North African, Middle Eastern and Central Asian Muslim-majority countries, as well as Israel. This heinous attack comes only a month after Germany’s President warned his fellow German citizens that hatred and abuse were spreading in his country, a statement illustrated by a string of right-wing extremist attacks and the recent arrests of a dozen men, all members of a cell suspected of preparing acts of terror on politicians, asylum seekers and Muslims in a bid to further divide the country.

  

"These acts may inspire others and might possibly be used as blueprints for aspiring right-wing attackers at home."

 

The events which unfolded in Hanau are far from being a new phenomenon. Instead, Germany just like many of its European counterparts has seen a sharp increase in hate crimes perpetrated by right-wing extremists. However, these frequent attacks have often led to few or no deaths but have for years been overshadowed by Islamist terrorism. Agendas of many counter-terrorism experts have been more or less focused primarily on Al-Qaeda and more recently on ISIS (or Daesh) activities both in Syria and Iraq and at the international level following a wave of lone wolf attacks which affected many European countries. Nevertheless, this has not stopped right-wing extremists from perpetrating acts of terror. Previous larger scale attacks such as in New Zealand in 2019 have shown that these extremists have the means and the desire to kill a large number of people. Furthermore, these acts may inspire others and might possibly be used as blueprints for aspiring right-wing attackers at home thus further shattering an already fragile sense of security in many countries. Far-right extremism is a very real threat today and it should be treated as such.

 

"Violence committed by right-wing extremist groups has increased over the years to include anti-Semitic motivated terror acts and attacks on immigrants."

 

But far from being a German issue, instead it is a European one as acknowledged by European Union Security Commissioner Sir Julian King in 2017, “I’m not aware of a single EU member state that is not affected in some way by right-wing violent extremism”. Violence committed by right-wing extremist groups has increased over the years to include anti-Semitic motivated terror acts to violent attacks on immigrants, asylum centres across Europe and assassinations of political figures.

While this might be seen as speculations only, the murdering rampage in Hanau should be viewed as a grim warning for what is to come in the near future unless European leaders firmly address the current toxic political environment which feeds the flames of hate. Berlin’s decision to deploy more police officers to sensitive targets to prevent potential copycat attacks is only a temporary band-aid. Germany and its European neighbours need to step up online counter-radicalisation activities while seeking sustainable preventative solutions by addressing the root causes behind the growing appeal for right-wing extremist ideologies.

About author: Jean-Patrick Clancy

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