France is no stranger in the terrorism scene, despite their lack of nation-branding on the counter-terrorism front in the Global War on Terror, the French occupy many pages in the history of terrorism. The word ‘terrorism‘ is derived from the French word ‘terrorisme’. The word has since evolved. Originally, the word was used to describe actions of the French government during a segment of the French Revolution called, the Reign of Terror led by Maximilien de Robespierre. However, after his fall, the term has since evolved to a debate that hovers somewhere around the definition, which in short boils down to, the inculcation of fear, maiming, and death, as means to exert ideological (political and/ or theological) policy over a given population.
In the 19th Century, France experienced 3 terror attacks over the first 58 years of the 1800’s. Each of the attacks were failed assassination attempts. Two of the attacks were bombings, and one was a shooting. The first bombing took place on 24 December 1800 and was a failed attempt to assassinate Napoleon Bonaparte by seven royalist (22 dead and over 50 injured.) The second attack took place on 28 July, 1835, it was a shooting with an improvised multi-barreled gun conducted by Giuseppe Mario Fieschi as a means to assassinate King Lousi Philippe (18 Dead and 22 injured.) The last attack of the century took place on 14 January 1858, it was a bombing by Italian nationalist, Felice Orsini to assassinate Napoleon III (8 dead and 106 injured.)
It is interesting to note that France, for nearly a century, remained free from terror attacks. One must take in account the effects of occupation in WWI and WWII; however, the focus of terrorism emitting from the MENA region is something to be noted. Beginning on 18 June 1961, France would experience a total of 13 attacks. 17 of the 21 attacks were bombings, 2 were shootings, 1 high jacking, and 1 hostage taking.
The first terrorism related bombing targeted the Strasbourg-Paris rail line, was conducted by the Organisation de L’armee Secrete, and it took place on 18 June 1961 (28 dead and over 100 Dead.) That attack would be the worst in modern French history. On 14 December 1973 the Charles Martel Group bombed the Algerian consulate in Marseille (4 Dead and 20 injured.)
On 5 October 1980, a Paris synagogue was bombed (2 dead and 34 injured.) Between 24 and 25 September 1981, the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) attempted a hostage based attack (1 dead and 2 injured.) On 2 March 1982, Carlos the Jackal bombed the Capitole Train (5 dead and 27 injured.) 9 August 1982, the Abu Nidal Organization shot up the Goldenberg restaurant in Paris. (6 dead and 22 injured.) On 15 July 1983, ASALA bombed a Turkish airliner at the Orly Airport (8 dead and 56 injured.) September 7th- 17th multiple stores in Paris were bombed that to be conducted by the Lebanese Revolutionary Armed Factions (5 dead and 60 injured.)
On 24 December 1994, the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) highjacked Air France Flight 8969 (7 Dead and 25 injured.) During 1995, the GIA conducted numerous bombings. ON 25 July GIA bombed the Saint-Michel station in Paris. (8 dead and 80 injured). On 17 August, GIA targeted the Arc de Triomphe (17 injured.) On 26 August, a bomb was found on the track of a high-speed train, thus failing the attack. On September 3, the GIA bombed a public square, but the bomb malfunctioned (4 injured). On September 7th, a Jewish School in Lyon was car-bombed (14 inured.) On 6 October, the Paris metro station, Maison Blanche was bombed (13 injured.) On 17 October, the RER Line was again targeted (injured.) On 3 December 1996, the GIA targeted the RER B Gare DePort-Royal in Paris (4 dead and 170 injured.) On 8 February, French prefect, Claude Erignac was assassinated by a Corsican nationalist gunman. On 19 April 2000, Breton nationalists bombed a McDonald in Quevert, Brittany (1 dead).
In the 14 years following the start of the current century, France has experienced 6 terrorist attacks. 2 of the attacks were bombings, 3 of the attacks were shootings, and 1 was a stabbing.
On 20 July 2003 a double attack by the National Liberation Front of Corsica (FLNC) targeted the Regional Directorate of Customs and the Treasury in Nice (6 Injured). On 1 December 2007, Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) shot two members of the Spanish Civil Guard who were conducting surveillance against the ETA in Capbreton, Landes (2 dead.) Between 11 and 22 March 2012 Mohammed Merah conducted multiple shootings against French soldiers and Jewish civilians. These attacks too place in the cities of Montauaban and Toulouse (7 dead 5 injured.)
On 23 May 2013 an Islamist knifeman attacked a French soldier in a Paris Suburb in La Defense (1 injured.) Lastly, at this point in time, France fell victim to terrorism between 2-9 January 2015. This attack was conducted by two Islamist gunmen, funded by recently killed AQAP operative, Anwar al Awlaki (20 dead and 21 injured.)
France is no stranger to terrorism. It was the French who coined the term. However, as the years have gone by, the term has changed. What once described the actions of a government has since evolved to describe actions against a government. Today, French counter-terrorism forces are primarily concerned with Islamic fighters. However, nationalist organizations remain on the radar.