ISIS Launches Rampage in Paris

Photo by Sarah Herrin, Thursday Review

ISIS Launches Rampage in Paris

| published November 14, 2015 |

By R. Alan Clanton, Thursday Review editor


Terrorists have struck out against at least six targets in Paris on late Friday and early Saturday, killing at least 129 people in various locations around metro area, and forcing the city to go on lockdown and spurring government officials to declare a state of emergency.

The attacks, which are believed to have been coordinated, began in the evening in different parts of the sprawling city. After hours of tense standoffs and violence, police killed several of the terrorists, but scores of civilians may have died even after the police stormed a crowded musical venue in central Paris when terrorists tossed grenades into the crowd of those still alive.

French President Francois Hollande described the events as “an act of war.”

The Islamic State, commonly known as ISIS, has taken responsibility for the attacks through its websites and on social media, declaring itself at war with any country who participates in the military operations against its self-described caliphate in Syria, Iraq and other areas of the Middle East. Though law enforcement have not been able to confirm the link between the attacks and ISIS, there is strong evidence that the Paris assaults fit a pattern of proactive aggression by ISIS in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, where militants bombed a Russian passenger plane, in Baghdad, where terrorists detonated bombs in crowded markets, and in Lebanon, where a series of attacks have been carried out against Hezbollah, a group which is backing Syrian President Bashir al-Assad.

For six long hours the citizens of Paris were seized with fear as terrorists launched multiple violent attacks in at least six separate incidents, including bombs which were detonated at a sold-out soccer match at the Stade de France sports stadium, a group of gunmen who opened fire into crowded restaurants, and four heavily armed men who used AK47 automatic weapons to storm into the Bataclan theater, a musical venue which was host to a sold-out concert by the American band Eagles of Death Metal.

Early in the night, the events at the concert hall were being described by both police and media as a hostage crisis, but law enforcement in Paris—confirming what witnesses and survivors now say—describe the scene as carnage, with the shooters firing randomly into the crowd in an attempt to kill as many people as possible. The terrorists who stormed the Bataclan made no demands to police or government officials.

Other terror attacks were carried out on street corners, where people were apparently shot randomly by gunmen on foot or in speeding cars. Five people were killed in a small crowd on Rue de la Fontaine au Roi, and another 18 were killed in a busy, popular restaurant a few blocks from Boulevard Voltaire.

Within an hour of the start of the attacks, as confusion and fear gripped Paris, President Hollande went on national television and radio to declare a state of emergency for the entire country. He also instituted a national lockdown, asking police to seal France’s borders with neighboring nations and implementing stringent of security at all airports and train stations. Hollande and other officials also enacted a curfew, asking that residents in Paris stay inside homes and apartments, and requesting that tourists remain in hotels, at least until officials could ascertain that the attacks have been quelled.

Hollande and the German foreign minister were in attendance at the soccer match when the attacks began. Hollande and his entourage left the stadium immediately and went to work assessing the rapidly unfolding situation, later addressing the nation from the Elysee Palace.

The attacks required the mobilization of all of Paris’s emergency services and first responders, including police and security who were at times spread thin, especially as reports came in from various parts of the city. The attacks were the first since the horrific Charlie Hebdo assault in January, when heavily armed militants stormed the offices of the satirical magazine, killing more than a dozen in a brazen daytime attack. The Paris attacks are also the worst for all of Europe since 2004, when terrorist detonated bombs aboard a crowded train in Madrid.

Early on Saturday, the French President said that France will show no mercy in its retaliations against ISIS. For France, the rare state of emergency is the first such lockdown since 1958.

Out of concern that some of the militants may still be on the move, and based on ongoing investigations into arrests and detainments of suspects in Germany and Belgium with possible connections to the Paris attacks, officials have insisted that French citizens remain at home through the weekend. Most major events have been cancelled or postponed, and online groups rallying to organize mass demonstrations have been asked to postpone such activities until French police can be sure that the current wave of assaults is over.

Though French police are certain that at least nine militants were involved, they are equally sure that several accomplices may still be on the move.

Media reports on the number of confirmed dead vary, but officially, the death toll is 129. Fox News, CNN and several French news agencies are reporting that—with more than 220 people seriously wounded—the number of fatalities could rise over the weekend. Many of the most seriously injured are suffering from multiple gunshot wounds.

The attacks in Paris came only 24 hours after the Pentagon and coalition officials confirmed the death of Mohammed Emwazi, also known as “Jihadi John,” an ISIS media spokesman and the person most likely responsible for the beheading of numerous individuals, including American and British journalists and humanitarian workers. On Thursday, Pentagon and White House officials said that Jihadi John was killed in a carefully-planned drone strike over Raqqa, the city which ISIS declares as its capital. British and U.S. intelligence agencies had been tracking Emwazi’s movements for months, and based on on-the-ground intelligence in the hours before his death, identified his exact location shortly before midnight (Syrian time) on Thursday. Three drones were used in the operation, which killed Emwazi and two other ISIS operatives in Raqqa.

Neither the Pentagon nor French law enforcement have said whether the Paris attacks were staged as retaliation for Emwazi’s death, or of the Paris attacks were already planned. Some military and terror experts suggest that the two events are largely unrelated, and point to the complexity and planning required to execute the assaults in France. Other U.S. and British intelligence sources also suggest that the Paris attacks fit neatly into what now appears to be a much larger pattern—ISIS asserting its power and reach to its adversaries around the world. At the time of the downing of the Russian passenger plane, ISIS announced on social media and the internet that it had declared war against Russia for Moscow’s recent military interventions in the Middle East. ISIS attacks in Baghdad, Beirut, and other locations in recent days confirm this pattern of violence.

Emwazi had become infamous for his participation in beheadings and other atrocities, often videotaped for wide distribution around the world, and later used as an ISIS recruitment tool for other potential jihadists. After being widely dubbed Jihadi John, he was later identified as Kuwaiti-born Mohammed Emwazi, who became a British citizen in the late 1990s. Though in the videos his face—save for his eyes—was always cloaked in black, Emwazi spoke with a unique London accent, which linguists used to pinpoint to an specific neighborhood.

In Paris, police and law enforcement are able to confirm that at least six different attacks took place on Friday, though there is still confusion over where some of the assaults occurred. Police are also concerned that some of the militants and their accomplices may still be at large.

President Hollande has declared three days of mourning.

Related Thursday Review articles:

U.S. & U.K. Intelligence: ISIS Chatter Prior to Russian Crash; Keith H. Roberts; Thursday Review; November 6, 2015.

Terrorism, and the Legacy of Charlie Hebdo; Earl Perkins; Thursday Review; January 15, 2015.