Belfast Telegraph

Militant Islam terror threat similar to IRA, says ex-Royal Irish commander

By Michelle Smyth

Northern Ireland war hero Colonel Tim Collins has praised the French special forces for their handling of the terrorist atrocities - as he compared the current threat to that of the IRA.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph yesterday, the former SAS officer from Belfast said that in the world of counter-terrorism, the French had carried out an "amazing feat" in the wake of mass murder at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris.

Col Collins OBE, who commanded the 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment during the Iraq invasion, praised France's handling of the subsequent hostage situations which emerged after the murder of a police woman and the killing of four hostages during the siege of a Jewish grocery store.

A total of 17 people were massacred over a period of three days last week by at least three terror suspects.

Col Collins said the French reaction to what happened is testament to "world-class intelligence".

"For me it was the intelligence effort that really stands out, for me it was the intelligence that allowed both situations ultimately to be brought under control," he said.

In answer to those who ask why intelligence couldn't have stopped the terrorists before the attacks, Col Collins said it is down to "matters of evidence and the law". He then makes reference to the June 1996 IRA bombing in Manchester.

"I recall the Manchester bombing inquiry which we in the special forces were assisting. There were suspects. We believed there could be a bomb. It was believed the target was most likely London. But until it went bang in Manchester... that was all that was known. Within 30 minutes of the explosion there were 13 arrest warrants issued," he wrote.

Col Collins said when the "dust settles" the world's special forces and law enforcers will be keen to "get a debrief from the French".

He also warned this is "not the end of such attacks...more are expected" and again makes reference to the IRA.

"If we manage to head off the attacks we will be very lucky. But as the IRA famously boasted after a foiled atrocity: 'you were lucky. You need to be lucky every time; we need only to be lucky once," he said.

Col Collins further praised the French intelligence services for identifying "the suspects, their accomplices and instigating a nationwide manhunts" within minutes of the Charlie Hebdo attack.

"What we witnessed was two simultaneous immediate actions...they delivered the immediate action and with deadly efficiency," he wrote.

Col Collins was born and raised in Belfast. In March 2003 he gave a now famous eve-of-battle speech to his troops in Kuwait - a speech that was pinned to the wall of the Oval Office by George W Bush.

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