October 17, 2023 - 1:46pm

The chilling link between international sport and street terrorism is one that haunts all of us who remember the most murderous night in the recent history of Paris.

It was at the Stade de France on Friday 13 November 2015 that three suicide bombers attacked a France-Germany football match. 

This was the start of a horrific evening of carnage that saw 130 people across the city killed, and hundreds more wounded, by fanatics swearing allegiance to ISIS. 

Operatives linked to the same cell carried out similarly cowardly attacks on civilians in Belgium in March 2016, murdering 32 with bombs at Brussels airport and in a metro station. 

The city was once again hit on Monday night, when another alleged ISIS terrorist shot two Sweden football fans dead before their team’s planned game against Belgium.

The match was abandoned because of fears that Abdesalem Lassoued, a 45-year-old Tunisian, was on his way to attack a crowd of some 35,000 people. 

Despite the tall and rotund Lassoued wearing a bright orange hi-vis vest, and brandishing an automatic rifle, it took some 12 hours to track him down. Farcically, he was travelling on a public bus before police finally cornered him in a café and shot him dead. 

In the case of Mohammed Mogouchkov, a 20-year-old alleged ISIS terrorist from a Russian immigrant family, he was meant to be under 24-hour surveillance before stabbing a teacher to death and wounding two others at a school in Arras, northern France, on Friday morning. Mogouchkov was arrested soon after the bloodbath, and remains in custody.

His background in the Russian Caucasus — an area long connected with extreme Islamist terrorism — was similar to that of Abdoullakh Anzorov, a Chechen refugee aged 18, who decapitated a history teacher in the suburbs of Paris exactly three years ago.

What all this tells us is that the chain of ISIS and Al-Qaeda terrorist attacks that started with the Charlie Hebdo murders in 2015 is by no means over. Worse still, it is quite obvious that the French and Belgium security services are no nearer preventing them from happening. 

The knee-jerk reaction by successive administrations has been to flood the country with armed police and soldiers. French President Emmanuel Macron pledged an extra 7,000 troops on the streets following the Arras attack, as his ministers linked it to heightened tensions caused by the Israel-Hamas war. 

The Middle East conflict was regularly imported to France in the 1970s by so-called “super terrorists” such as Carlos the Jackal and Abu Nidal, and those dark days may be repeated. A massive pro-Palestine lobby in France regularly complains about the way their marches and demonstrations are banned, as they accuse western governments of being too closely allied with Israel.

Whatever the motives of the street killers, there is little doubt that manic individuals with only basic weapons — the school attackers used kitchen knives and a meat cleaver — can easily evade scrutiny before striking. 

Sport fans in France for events such as the Rugby World Cup — England play South Africa in Paris on Saturday and the France football team is up against Scotland in Lille on Tuesday — should be particularly wary. 

Crowds are the most vulnerable but — as many of us first learnt first-hand at a football match eight years ago — intense terrorist violence can happen anywhere, and at any time.

Peter Allen is a journalist and author based in Paris.