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Terror strikes on three continents, can others be stopped?

Three deadly attacks in France, Kuwait and Tunisia came just days after Islamic State militants urged followers to stage "calamities for non-believers" during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. William Brangham talks to Peter Neumann of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence about the outbreak of violent assaults and how they may be connected.

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  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    From what we know now, three attacks within three hours, do you believe these are connected?

  • PETER NEUMANN:

    They are connected in the sense that the Islamic State is trying to create attacks across the world. I think it is very, very unlikely that there was some guy in Mosul or Raqqa who was coordinating these attacks and who was saying, we do one in France and then, within an hour, we do one in Tunisia.

    I think that's very unlikely and there's no evidence for that so far. I think a lot of them might have been thinking about the first year anniversary of the caliphate declaration, which happened almost exactly a year ago. We have a momentum towards new attacks, and that might have happened.

    But in terms of coordination, there's no evidence for that so far.

  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    I mean, ISIS certainly and very recently called for more attacks like this to happen during Ramadan. Are we likely to expect, should we be expecting more of these to be happening?

  • PETER NEUMANN:

    I think we should.

    One has to be careful with that recent declaration. That recent declaration specifically mentioned countries. Those countries were Saudi. Those countries were Lebanon. None of the countries where attacks happened today were actually mentioned in the call that was issued two or three days ago. And that is another indicator that the Islamic State at a central level didn't actually know about these attacks happening.

    I think there is a lot of momentum towards new attacks by the Islamic State. The Islamic State clearly wants to hit Western targets because it believes that is part of its strategy of asymmetrical warfare. It believes that, because it is being hit by Americans and by Western countries in its core territory, it has to hit back. And I think we will see more of that for sure.

  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    I mean, in the end, does it really matter if ISIS directed this attack or whether it was inspired by ISIS? I mean, the effect is the same in the end, right?

  • PETER NEUMANN:

    Absolutely.

    And I think that's what we're dealing with. We're dealing with a very complicated, complex movement. We are having — in Syria and Iraq, we're having an entity that is acting like a state, but that state is also having followers across the world who are looking at that state as an inspiration.

    And they are following the advice and the cause given by that movement without it necessarily being coordinated. And it is difficult for us to get our head around, because we're dealing with something that is simultaneous things at the same time. And we will have to expect more of these attacks in the future.

  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    I mean, you're describing an enemy that is a many-headed hydra almost. How should — the nations that want to fight this, how should they be going about doing this?

  • PETER NEUMANN:

    I think we need different things in different places.

    I think, in Western Europe, for example, we need a concerted effort that is not only about counterterrorism, that is also about prevention, that is also about deradicalization, interventions, because clearly the security authorities in a lot of European countries cannot deal with the number of cases they have on their desks right now.

    In a country like Tunisia, which has been strongly affected by this, 3,000 Tunisians have gone to Syria and Iraq as foreign fighters. They have an open border with Libya. The Tunisian authorities really are not up to the job. So the international community has to come in with support, capacity-building. The European Union, the Americans have to help the Tunisians get up to the job, so they can protect their own people.

    And regarding the Islamic State, it needs an aggressive policy of containment, which doesn't mean boots on the ground. That would be exactly what the Islamic State is asking for. They want America to send boots on the ground, back to the future, back to sort of Iraqi-style occupation.

    What you need to do is to keep the Islamic State keep losing and contain it where it is and let it fall on its own promise. And I think that will take some time. It will take strategic patience. It will happen eventually.

  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    All right, Peter Neumann, thank you very much for joining us.

  • PETER NEUMANN:

    Thank you.

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