An Islamic terror attack in Europe — where a knife- and Quran-wielding jihadist fatally slashed three people in a church in Nice, France (nearly decapitating one of them) — can now be added to the world's newest but still largely unread book on terrorist travel tactics: He illegally infiltrated Europe's borders posing as a migrant-refugee to reach his French target, according to French officials.
In entering Europe using this highly effective clandestine infiltration method, 21-year-old Brahim Aouissaoui joins scores of attacking, plotting Islamic terrorists who have crossed Europe's borders as illegal aliens since 2014, hiding among numerically greater migrants and refugees — and still come even though Europe's so-called migrant crisis supposedly ended in 2017.
An "Exit Slip" and a Red Cross Identification Card
The accused border-infiltrating terrorist is a Tunisian who, apparently angered by France's recent vow to uphold the free-speech right of cartoonists to draw Prophet Muhammed, illegally voyaged September 14 over the Mediterranean Sea on a migrant boat and reached the Italian island of Lampedusa on September 20.
The Italians quarantined him there for 14 days with the rest of the migrants as part of a coronavirus containment policy. Aouissaoui registered with the Italian Red Cross and received an official identification card but did not apply for political asylum, according to a report in The Guardian. On October 9, he somehow made his way on a small boat to the Italian mainland port of Bari.
There, with so many Tunisians clogging Italy's repatriation process, the authorities released him with an "exit slip," requiring him to leave the country within seven days. A similar kind of process occurs on the American southern border during migrant surges, where migrants are released with a "notice to appear" in court.
Of course, Aouissaoui did not go home. He used his Italian Red Cross identity card to board a train for France. It arrived Thursday, the same day Aouissaoui staged his bloody attack inside the church, shouting "Allahu akbar!" (God is greatest) even as police shot and critically wounded him.
Many Came Before
The Nice knife attacker's method of reaching his target is hardly rare. It's only the latest of many just this year, which tragically demonstrate how this new global terrorist border infiltration phenomenon has continued unabated in the year since the Center for Immigration Studies quantified and analyzed it in the study titled "What Terrorist Migration Over European Borders Can Teach About American Border Security". As many as 150 terrorists who got through Europe's land and marine borders with other migrants since 2014, by my count, have conducted scores of attacks that have killed and wounded many hundreds of people in a dozen countries. These include the most recent beheading of a Paris schoolteacher for discussing the Mohammed cartoon controversy and four Tajikistani migrants caught plotting to bomb U.S. air bases in Germany this past spring.
Many of the migrant-terrorists came via Lampedusa Island and the sea route from northern Africa during the 2014-2017 European migrant crisis. They still do, as I reported here in May when Italians luckily caught the so-called "ISIS Rapper" Majed Abdel Bary, one of Europe's most-wanted terrorists, after he, too, used the route on a migrant boat.
Lessons for American Homeland Security
American homeland security planners and professionals, contending with several thousand migrants a year coming over the U.S. southern border from the same Islamic nations, including Tunisia, might take stock of Europe's various security responses to its terrorist border infiltration catastrophe.
As CIS's study and the first chapter of my forthcoming book America's Covert Border War extensively detail, the European Union has responded with a variety of methods to reduce the migration flows from Islamic countries where jihadist ideology and terrorist organizations are prevalent. Yet the routes still exist, ferrying 141,846 migrants over EU external borders in 2019, according the EU border agency Frontex's 2020 threat assessment, nearly 24,000 of them using the Western Mediterranean route that Aouissaoui used.
U.S. agencies should up their game regarding security vetting at our own borders.
U.S. homeland security and border management agencies should consider all of these cases as red flag warnings to up their game regarding security vetting at our own borders, where migrant asylum-seekers from all of the same Muslim-majority countries regularly show up from Mexico after traveling through Latin America.
Todd Bensman is a fellow at the Middle East Forum and a senior national security fellow for the Center for Immigration Studies. He previously led counterterrorism-related intelligence efforts for the Texas Intelligence and Counterterrorism Division.