CHARLOTTE, N.C., June 16, 2016 — Are the planets aligning for a perfect storm of chaos in Europe in coming weeks?
Ramadan, the Islamic holy month, June to July 5, 2016, is a period of 30 days of fasting for Muslims. Traditionally, though not its purpose for millions of Muslim, Ramadan has been a period of widespread terror activity among radical Islamic believers.
Add in the Euro 2016 soccer tournament, which began June 10 in Paris and the annual Wimbledon tennis tournament just outside of London, and you have the board set for trouble.
Both Paris and London have been recent terrorist targets, and terrorists strike the same targets repeatedly.
The potential for tragedy is so obvious that law enforcement is already on high alert, but the potential is worse than it seemed. A story out of Paris reveals that 82 people who have been hired for security positions for the soccer tournament are themselves on terrorism watch lists in France.
The U.S. has already issued travel advisories for France and other parts of Europe in anticipation of the high volume of summer travel to the continent this year, expected thanks to a stronger dollar against the euro.
Alerts for extra vigilance have been issued, particularly in France; due to the much larger crowds expected at the European football tournament, Wimbledon has prompted fewer warnings.
Among the considerations for tennis fans is that Wimbledon takes place toward the end of Ramadan. The fasting periods during years when Ramadan occurs in the summer are longer by several hours than when the holy month takes place in the winter. That could be significant because the potential for violence increases as Ramadan progresses. This is due to increased hostility, which can build toward the end of the fast.
French President Francois Hollande has admitted that there is a risk of a terrorist attack during Euro 2016. French authorities have hired 90,000 people for security duties at stadiums and in areas where large numbers of fans will congregate.
Of that number, 77,000 are law enforcement personnel; the remaining 13,000 are drawn from security and military forces. There are also about 1,000 volunteers.
Concerns have arisen because authorities did not properly vet the 82 people who are on the terror watch list; it was considered “Islamophobic” to do so. Aside from that, reports say that most hiring officials do not know the right questions to ask and what to look for as a red flag for potential trouble. “Even if they do, they don’t dare go in that direction,” said one analyst.
As added security for the teams themselves, the French have assigned 17 police officers and two agents from their special forces units to protect each squad.
Ideally, everything will go smoothly and the world can heave a collective sigh of relief in the middle of July. The problem is that terrorism relies greatly on the element of surprise, which is why the threat at Wimbledon looms large. If proper security is not taken for the tennis championships because the world is preoccupied with soccer, then the havoc caused by an attack would be enhanced.
Besides killing and maiming innocent people, any jihadist disruptions combined with economic impact and frenzied media coverage creates an ideal venue for some type of terror event.
When we should be savoring the achievements of great athletic competitions and enjoying the long days of summer, in today’s world we must also be looking over our shoulders and wondering whether something horrible lurks in the shadows.
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award-winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe. Taylor is founder of the Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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