A five-minute window of opportunity to analyze the car-ramming attack against French soldiers

by NIDRA POLLER August 10, 2017

3 PM, August 9th, I'm invited to appear on i24 news at 8 PM to comment on the car-ramming attack against French soldiers in Levallois-Perret that morning. It's my first appearance on the i24 English-language channel -I often appear on the French channel and that's the one I watch every day here in Paris. It's also the first time I've done an interview in a remote studio, where you look at the camera as if it were the anchor speaking to you from the studio in Yaffo. I spent the afternoon scraping and scrounging for reliable information. There was no doubt that the attack was deliberate and premeditated. Commentators didn't hesitate to place it in the familiar Islamist category along with dozens of others perpetrated over the past years. The case was immediately assigned to the special counter-terrorism courts. The identity of the suspect was revealed just before I left for the i24 studio: Hamou B.

As I waited for my host in the lobby of the building the three security guards, who all happened to be black, dressed in black, were commenting on the latest news: "An Algerian, he had a residence permit, lived in the Yvelines [a suburb of Paris]."  Did I detect a hint of exasperation in their voices? Justifiably so. They're hired to protect the media people in the building against guys like that. They put their lives on the line.

As usual, I came to the five-minute slot with enough information and background analysis to fill an hour-long interview. The challenge is to boil it down to a nugget of essence. I'm learning. In a way I was debating with the experts I'd been watching all afternoon. With rare exceptions they were solid on the Islamic element but shaky on the way it connects with such a wide range of potential killers going about their lives under the radar, or flagged as risks but not followed because it's impossible to keep track of them.

I was taken aback by the anchor's last question. Shouldn't Europeans be doing a better job of integrating immigrants? I wished she'd asked it at the start. It would have given me time to cite a few examples. The young man that tried to stab soldiers at the Eiffel Tower last week has been followed by psychiatric services since he came with his family from Mauritania about 15 years ago. Our fault? Kobili Traoré savagely murdered his Jewish neighbor, Sarah Halimi. She'd been living for decades in the subsidized public housing. His family moved in some time ago, benefiting from the same advantages. They're immigrants from Mali, Sarah Halimi's family had to flee the Maghreb. She contributed to society all her life long. He was a criminal with more than 20 convictions. Our fault?

Here's what I could say in five minutes: Click on photo to view 

nidra tv _I 24 news 2017


BREAKING NEWS: BFM TV just aired an interview with Hamou B.'s uncle, Mohamed Benlatreche.  He can't believe his nephew is the suspect. He's a nice kid (36 years-old), a good guy, never got into trouble, hard-working. He'd get up at 5 in the morning...to make deliveries. Yes, he worked as a delivery man and a driver...right, for Uber...he took me with him once. The uncle can't believe what they're saying about his nephew. How could he possibly be the person they describe! And the picture of him with the beard. He never had a beard. Always clean-shaven. Radical? No! He said his prayers like any good Muslim, that's all, nothing bad about that. The report closes with a shot of an unassuming mosque attended by Hamou B. There too he was just a normal Muslim. No signs of radicalization.

nidra poller updated ce photo 12-2017

Nidra Poller is an American novelist and journalist living in Paris since 1972. She has published  in the Wall Street Journal Europe, New English Review, and other outlets. Ms. Poller is the author of Troubled Dawn and  "The Black Flag of Jihad Stalks the Republique "

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