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Originally published in The Spectator
In the wake of the massacre in Paris, President François Hollande said that France was ‘at war’ — and that it must be fought both inside his country and outside in the Middle East. As the French air force began dropping bombs on Raqqa in Syria, another operation was under way in towns and cities across France: 168 raids in two days. A battle on two fronts has begun.
Chartres cathedral is one of the great monuments of western civilisation, but Chartres was also home to one of the Bataclan theatre suicide bombers. A man from the same area died last summer in Syria, fighting for Isis. In Lyon, theraids turned up a rocket launcher. On Tuesday night, a large-scale counter-terror assault was launched in St Denis in Paris. After heavy gunfire, a woman blew herself up by detonating a suicide belt, according to the police.
That the French police know where to look is heartening. That there are so many places to look is not. Long before this week’s slaughter, the French have known that large parts of France are effectively not French.