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3rd Mar 2024

EU leaders decry 'poison' of Islamist attacks

  • Hollande: 'Emotion cannot be the only answer. It is action, prevention, deterrence' (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

EU leaders offered their condolences to the victims of three violent attacks in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East on Friday (26 June), while vowing to fight terrorism.

“Let me express our condolences and solidarity to France, Kuwait, and Tunisia which have been the victims of savage terrorist attacks”, EU president Donald Tusk said after a summit in Brussels.

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News of the attacks came as leaders started the second day of their meeting, which already had counter-terrorism on the agenda.

French president Francois Hollande left early after it emerged that attackers crashed a car into a chemical factory in Saint-Quentin-Fallavie, near Lyon.

“It is a terror attack. There are no doubts about it”, Hollande said in a press conference. “A body was found, decapitated, with a message written. As far as we know … there is one dead, and two injured”.

The same day, at least 27 people, many of them foreign tourists, were killed by gunmen in an attack in Tunisia.

International media reported the attackers targeted a beach outside two hotels.

Also on Friday, Islamic State claimed responsibility for what it said was a suicide attack in Kuwait. At least eight people were killed by a bomb at a moqsue, according to local media.

It isn’t known if the three attacks were connected. But the assault in France brought back memories of January's attack on the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo, and of the shootings in Copenhagen a month later when two people were killed during attacks on a public event on freedom of expression, and a synagogue..

“We all remember and have in mind what happened in our country and other countries as well. There is therefore a lot of emotion. But emotion cannot be the only answer - it is action, prevention, deterrence”, said Hollande.

After the summit ended, other government leaders also spoke defiantly.

UK prime minister David Cameron said “we have to deal with this poisonous, radical narrative that is turning the minds of so many young kids”.

“The people who do this sometimes claim they do it in the name of Islam. They don’t. Islam is a religion of peace. People who do this do it in the name of twisted, perverted ideology”.

He promised to share intelligence with France and Tunisia.

Belgian prime minister Charles Michel said the attacks showed “European governments have to work hand in hand” to fight terrorism.

"Unfortunately this is not the first time", said Michel, whose country saw a violent attack on the Jewish museum in Brussels a year ago.

His Dutch colleage Mark Rutte said EU leaders are “extremely motivated” to prevent terrorist attacks.

“You cannot guarantee that they will not take place. [But] I can guarantee you that we are truly doing everything in our power” to prevent them, he noted.

“The best answer we can give to these backward idiots who carry out these attacks, is by continuing our way of life as we are accustomed”.

In the conclusions the leaders published after the summit, they said "Europe's security environment has changed dramatically".

They tasked EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini with "preparing an EU global strategy on foreign and security policy in close cooperation with Member States".

Mogherini was given one year to submit this strategy.

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