The third major terror attack on French soil in 18 months is stoking fears of insecurity and a reactionary backlash against immigrants as a presidential race looms next year, analysts say.
Far-right leaders like Marine Le Pen, who has campaigned on an anti-immigrant theme, could benefit politically from Thursday night’s terror attack in Nice by a Tunisian immigrant that killed at least 84 people and wounded several hundred. Polls before the attack showed Le Pen as a top candidate to replace President François Hollande.
“It certainly empowers the right,” said Tom Sanderson, a senior fellow and director of the Transnational Threats Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.
Le Pen, who has said she is an admirer of Donald Trump, tweeted shortly after the attacks: “Again France is plunged into horror. Thoughts for the victims. The fight against Islamic fundamentalism must start.”
On Friday, Hollande visited the scene along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice where Mohamed Bouhlel, 31, drove a truck that mowed down scores of people as he shot others Thursday night before he was killed by police.
“We should be strong. The world is looking at us once again,” Hollande said as he addressed the French people.
France was the center of international attention in January 2015, when two Al Qaeda-inspired gunman attacked the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, killing 12. The deadliest terror attack in French history occurred on Nov. 13 during a coordinated string of assaults in Paris that left 130 dead, including 89 at the Bataclan theater.
“We are dealing with a struggle that will take a long time because we have an enemy that is going to continue to strike,” a somber Hollande said.
Observers say it’s unlikely the relentless violence will shake French resolve toward fighting terrorism and playing a role in the fight against the Islamic State. After the Paris attack, Hollande ordered intensified French strikes against the Islamic State in Raqqa, Syria, where the extremist group is based.
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SOURCE: Gregg Zoroya