Paris terror attacks

Attacks in Paris again show that the world must unite to defeat terrorism

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 November, 2015, 8:26pm
UPDATED : Monday, 16 November, 2015, 11:24pm

Paris and its people have been forever changed by the merciless Islamic State (IS) terror attacks. Previous shootings by radicals were focused on specific issues; those on Friday night made no such distinction, targeting everyday citizens relaxing at restaurants and bars, a rock concert and a soccer match.

The bullets and explosions have shattered all sense of safety and security, prompting President Francois Hollande to declare that France is at war. But his country alone cannot defeat the threat of Muslim extremism in general, and IS in particular - it is a challenge that governments together have to resolutely take on.

READ MORE: France strikes back: Warplanes pound Islamic State targets in Syria days after Paris terror attacks

The attacks are France's 9/11, a wake-up call to failings of intelligence and cooperation with other governments.

Circumstances are markedly different from those in January when Muslim gunmen murdered journalists and cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo magazine; this time, the citizens themselves came under attack.

Amid the anger and grief, there will be pressure to intrude on personal freedoms through tighter security checks, enhanced internet surveillance and data collection, and to be less welcoming to Muslims and migrants.

READ MORE: We 'condemn these inhuman acts': shock and sadness from Hong Kong’s Muslim leaders over 'brutal' Paris terror attacks

But care has to be taken to protect all that France and other democratic nations cherish and which IS and other radicals are so eager to destroy: tolerant cultures open to equality, ideas and the beliefs of others.

IS blamed France's involvement in the coalition bombing its positions in territory seized in Syria and Iraq for the attacks. But the air combat missions are mostly being carried out by the US and lack coordination and support.

Russia has its own strategy, Britain is focused on Iraq and Canada is withdrawing.

No country has deployed ground troops, nor if they did, would they be of much use without common objectives and goals.

World leaders have expressed sympathy, but that united sentiment also has to be translated into united action. They have a chance of finding that at summits of the Group of 20, held in Turkey at the weekend, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, which begins in Manila on Wednesday.

The setting by global powers on Saturday of a January 1 target for the start of talks to end the civil war in Syria, a key factor in the rise of IS, is a timely step.

President Xi Jinping's pledge to join the international community with security cooperation and fighting terrorism furthers hope, although practical measures need to be outlined, especially given that China is battling its own extremist threat in Xinjiang .

But no government by itself can defeat IS - success lies in a coordinated approach.