In an article I wrote yesterday for the Globe & Mail, I noted that online jihadists have been inciting attacks against France. One post in this regard, from the Ansar al-Mujahedin Network, was particularly interesting in light of a monograph I co-authored last year with my G&L colleague Dan Trombly about the tactical and strategic use of firearms by terrorists. One of our conclusions was that “small arms are quite useful for terrorist organizations. They are among the most tactically flexible weapons for complex operations, and for lone wolf or small group attackers, they are one of the most simple to use and readily available options. For this reason, small arms will continue to be an obvious choice not only for al Qaeda, but also for other terrorist groups that wish to carry out attacks.”
The post that caught my interest went up on January 13, written by a forum participant calling himself Abu Ubaydah al Masri al Salafi. Entitled “Advice to Our Brothers in the Islamic Maghreb,” the post provides a number of pieces of tactical and strategic advice. Some of the advice includes encouraging other jihadis to “join the army with the goal of killing the largest possible number of French soldiers, and thus weakening the trust between the two sides,” and capturing the French rather than killing them in order to create an anti-war climate in that country. But given my monograph on firearms, his fifth piece of advice stood out:
Send lone wolves to France to strike inside of France. It is preferable for the operations to be like Mohammad Merah’s operation [i.e., the Toulouse shooter]; that is, carried out by gunfire rather than explosives because it takes a long time to prepare explosives and the operation might be uncovered before implementation due to surveillance.
This passage concisely summarizes precisely why firearms will continue to appeal to terrorists, both individuals and groups, even despite the existence of proliferating options.