How safe is the world after Paris 13/11?
By David Otto- Counter Terrorism Expert
TGS intelligence and Security consultants
November 14, 2015 19:00
On 23 October 2002 Chechen militants were responsible for the death of 130 people in Moscow Dubrovka theatre terror siege out of about 1000 hostages. 13 years later a similar attack takes place in Paris on 13/11. At least 127 people have died and many more wounded. ISIL has claimed responsibility for the deadly terror attack. 8 of the terrorist died at the scene. 7 of them blew themselves up as suicide bombers. 1 terrorist is reported to have been killed by French Special Force (Raid).
The attack comes a day after Mohammed Emwazi (Jihadi John) was reported to have been targeted by US and UK airstrikes but confirmation of his death is unknown. The same day before the Paris attack, ISIL suicide bombers killed 43 people in Lebanon. Exactly a day after the attack, world powers including Russia and US meet in Vienna to decide the fate of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, ‘moderate’ fighters, ISIL, Al-Nusra and other terrorist groups.It was exactly 13 days after a Russian Metro jet Airbus 321 was brought down with 224 passengers killed in Mount Sinai after leaving Sharm el-Sheikh to St Petersburg.
Days after the crash, the UK and US intelligence revealed unofficially that there was a very high possibility that it was an ‘explosive device’ by suspected ISIL terrorist.
The Paris attackers targeted the Bataclan theatre in the 11th Arrondissement of Paris on a busy Friday evening. Just like the Dubrovka theatre in the 2002 Moscow siege, the Bataclan theatre hosted about 1000 visitors to a concert from a US California band. The attackers carried out another coordinated shooting outside a nearby restaurant killing about 14 dinners and injuring many more. The choice of weapons and targets is significant for two reasons;
The use of suicide bombers and automatic weapons indicates that the terrorist wanted to kill as many people as possible. The fact that they wore suicide vest means they were prepared to die and no negotiation was going to make a difference. Suicide bombing is usually a desperate and deadly strategy but this tactics could spread to Europe with devastating effects.
The choice of target is important as always for terrorist.
France and Paris Central get busier on a Friday evening for locals and tourists alike. The Bataclan theatre was going to be busy because it was hosting a US California group with attendance of about 1000 or more people. The shooting outside a busy restaurant also ensured maximum casualty. The suicide attacks outside Stade de France hosting France and Germany was a much bigger target for the terrorist because; The President of France, top French and German officials, international footballers and many other celebrities were watching the game, a good PR for the terrorist. Any attack in the stadium would have caused maximum damage and international coverage which enhances the propaganda of groups like ISIL.
Have all the perpetrators been apprehended? What is France doing about them?
The number of terrorist who planned the attack is not yet known. So far 8 have been killed. In response France has declared a national state of emergency to track the rest. French President Francois Hollande says attack has external influence, referring to ISIL in Syria and Iraq. Early analysis from eyewitness reports and the tactics of using suicide bombing with assault and sporadic shooting bear resemblance to Al-Qaeda and ISIL style of attack.
What nationality are the terrorist?
The origin or nationality of the terrorists is not yet known but eye witnesses and reports suggest (from their French speaking accent) some of the terrorist could be French born ‘home grown terrorists’ or French foreign fighter returnees from Syria or Iraq. Some reports claim a Syrian and Egyptian passport was found at the scene of a suicide attack outside Stade de France, prompting suggestions that attackers may have come directly from Syria to launch attacks or were refugees- now terrorist.
France is part of the US Western coalition involved in airstrikes against ISIL in Syria and Iraq since September 2014. It has a chequered colonial and post-colonial history after their involvement in the regime change western policy in Ivory Coast, Mali, Libya and Central Africa Republic... The gun men, according to eyewitness report, claimed that they were carrying out the attack for the involvement of France in Syria particularly.
Is this is a one off attack on France alone?
France has a higher and growing Muslim population compared to other European counterparts like UK. There are fears more attacks may continue elsewhere in France or beyond prompting a national state of emergency. This incident happened despite the fact that France has been on high alert after the January 2015 Charlie Hebdo attacks which left 12 people dead. Only five months after Charlie Hebdo, an Islamist beheaded his boss in Lyon and attempted to blow up a French industrial plant. In July 2015 an attacker on a high speed train was over powered by brave passengers while wielding a machine gun.
This attack in Paris will have significant national and international implication in the war against terrorism and violent extremism just like 9/11 did to the world. It happens a day before the Vienna conference where coalition powers (Russia,US..) are meeting to decide on the approach to peace in Syria, but more so, how to comprehensively defeat ISIL and other terrorist groups in the region.
Just like the effect of 9/11 on Afghanistan and Iraq, there is a high possibility that decisions on the ISIL strategy will be draconian and hasty. France and possibly the UK will be more willing to join the US and pursue full military air and ground strike against those it considers as enemies. There will be more inclination to see the back of President Bashar al-Assad and restore a ‘moderate’ government in Syria. As indicated by the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the Vienna conference held today, any transition strategy that goes beyond or above the support of the Syrian people will not be supported by Russian coalition. The US Secretary of state John Kerry does not believe in the order of events as suggested by his Russian counterpart- ISIL goes and Syria transition framework follows. No realistic peace plan reached even after Paris attack.
Where we are after now:
The world peace is under serious threat from Islamic violent extremism- or so it seems, after the Paris attack and all other attacks globally including the ignored Sub Saharan Africa group- Boko Haram. Like 9/11, this is not the time to make rash decisions without proper thought on future ramifications. After all, if our leaders had taking out time to think of what to do best after 9/11, these kind of attacks on innocent citizens, going about doing their business may have been avoided or worst minimised. No one in their right mind supports terrorism but Might is not always Right and we should not under- estimate the strategy of a determined ‘tortoise’ simply because it walks slowly. The world big powers may go ahead, angry and gun blazing to eliminate those they believe are terrorist and set the ‘moderates’ free from the ‘tyrants’. Experience tells us that the ideology will be passed on to a new generation of jihadist even when the flesh is killed. There must be a global honest effort to combat terrorism from the source, from the, the source, and from the source (Intentional) first.
Equal attention must be given to all lives lost around the world as a result of terrorism and not just the ‘privileged’ in the West. Whether it is an attack in a village in Northern Nigeria, Northern Cameroon, Kenya, Libya, Yemen, Israel, Iraq, Palestine , Pakistan ,UK, Brazil, Australia, US and France – the world must stand together genuinely to address the issue from the source. Our leaders must be sincere and honest (If ever) to keep global peace else the list of lives is just in the beginning for the selfishness of a few. My heart goes to the victims of the Paris 11/13 attacks but they will be pleased to know in their graves, that more lives do not go the same route.
Counter terrorism expert