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Europe must learn how to combat Isis menace modelled on Northern Ireland's Troubles

By Jim McDowell

The people of Paris are reeling from their second terrorist bloodbath in a year. First Charlie Hebdo last January. Now, the obscene triple atrocities at the restaurant, the heavy metal rock concert, and the Stade de France.

In essence, Paris is suffering now what we here in Northern Ireland - and sporadically in the Republic, and in Britain - endured for almost 40 years.

Terrorism on our own doorsteps.

And, even worse, terrorism spawned on our own doorsteps.

There was no "radicalisation" of our youth via social media. There was no social media throughout most of our so-called Troubles.

Instead, we had the recruiting sergeants of the IRA, the UDA, the INLA, the UVF either inveigling, or forcing, young people into their terror gangs.

Just like what is happening with Isis now.

Although they are operating on a global scale, using and abusing social media to spread their poisonous propaganda.

We were different in that respect. We lived in, and through, a vortex of terror, a whirlpool of bombs and bullets swirling around the Falls, the Shankill, Belfast and Derry, and occasionally Dublin and across to the British mainland.

In essence, the perpetrators of violence in this country - and especially in places like west Belfast - lived only hundreds of yards from each other, or at the most a few miles: they, or their alleged causes, were not spawned on another continent, nor directed from there.

They were what the Americans would call 'Homeland' terrorists.

Now, other countries - like France - have to learn to cope with similar terror tactics.

Others may be 'imported' - like those who posed as refugees to gain access to France and to take part in the Paris bloodletting - but the two atrocities perpetrated in Paris this year had home grown terrorists in the ranks of their death squads.

Ditto Northern Ireland since 1969.

Ditto Northern Ireland, and Ireland, today, with the dissidents still intent on wreaking death and destruction.

Now, the big questions being asked - by politicians, police and State security agencies worldwide, but especially in Europe - is what special measures are needed to combat these latest "soft target" tactics by suicidal Isis guerrillas.

There is, rightly, outrage and horror at the so-called "soft targets" attacks in Paris on Friday.

One wonders where Isis learned, or learned from, those killer tactics, aimed solely at civilians.

Where else, but Northern Ireland? Restaurants and bars attacked by terrorists with either no-warning bombs or hooded gunmen using high-velocity assault rifles while kneeling down on one knee, and then reloading: just like in Paris.

Remember the Abercorn, the Rising Sun, La Mon, Loughinisland, the Bayardo, the Dublin/Monaghan bombings, McGurk's bar, Bloody Friday in Belfast…just a few examples of the litany of lives here - over 3,600, remember - lost in similar terror tactics as those perpetrated on the French capital on another Bloody Friday.

How do you combat that? Yesterday there was much talk about 'lockdowns': about major European cities - Paris, London, Rome, Moscow, others - throwing what we here used to call a 'ring of steel' around their municipal centres.

We know all about that, too: remember when our town and city centres were circled by steel security barriers? Remember VCPs - vehicle check points mounted by armed police and soldiers?

Remember being frisked, with women's handbags being searched and scoured, every time we went through a shop door downtown?

Don't be surprised if, the next time you go abroad, it isn't deja-vu, or something very similar, in the major metropolises of Europe.

And as for taking on the terrorists: there was much TV talk yesterday again about "taking out Isis, about the possibility of America, Russia, the European countries like Britain and France, pooling their resources and "going to war" with Isis in a new ground war, hitting the heartland of their operation in Syria.

When the security forces here tried that kind of tactic against terrorism - remember Loughgall? - it was decried by detractors as "shoot-to-kill".

Still, the re-creation, with the backing of the United Nations, of a kind of new 'Allies' force, like that which fought fascism in the Second World War, and defeated Hitler and the Nazis, may be one option.

The other is the pooling of a core corps of the Western world's intelligence agencies - the FBI, the KGB, MI6, MI5, their secret service counterparts in France (especially), Germany, and other democratic countries - to seek out and cut out the Isis leaders, abroad, but most importantly at home, on their own doorsteps, too.

There is an old adage in the newspaper industry which runs: Intelligence is Power.

And nowhere is that more apt now than in this crucial fight against the killer machine which is Isis.

Belfast Telegraph

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