Special to WorldTribune.com
The French capital was under siege again as a brazen, coordinated attack on six popular Parisian locations was carried out on Nov. 13 by what is almost certainly an Islamic terrorist group, probably the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL).
The attackers apparently acted in near unison; the attacks began at nearly the same time. A multiplicity of weapons was used, including AK-47 automatic weapons, shotguns and in at least the attack on the concert hall hand grenades were thrown at hostages.
The precise number of attackers is unknown at present but it is reasonable to assume that as many as 12- 24 jihadists may have been involved in planning the attacks, carrying out surveillance prior to the attacks and executing the attacks.
For ISIL, the stunning success of the attacks already is being praised in chat rooms and other web sites. It will enhance the organization’s recruiting efforts.
Combined with the likely terrorist downing of a Russian passenger flight over the Sinai, the Paris attacks demonstrate the organization’s capability to carry out terrorist operations beyond Syria and Iraq.
At the same time the western powers are being forced to review intelligence policies and capabilities as well as measures to counter virulent Islamist social media offensives in the global “war of ideas”.
President Barack Obama earlier on the day of the attack said ISIL was being “contained.” This was probably in response to the British extremist known as “jihadi John” who may have been killed in a coordinated U.S.-UK drone strike in Iraq and the severing of a main ISIL supply route.
The Paris attacks put Hollande in a different frame of mind. He was quoted in Le Monde, a leading Paris newspaper as saying the attacks were “an act of war” and the French military response would be “pitiless.”
Even the normally reserved Vatican said the attacks “require a decisive response.”
In coming days more information may be uncovered. For example, little was known initially about the attackers although one of the attackers reportedly had a Syrian passport.
For example, were they refugees, homegrown terrorists, individuals who had fought in the Middle East and returned home to carry out jihad or a mixture of each?
The attack’s short and long-term consequences will be profound. In coming months what security posture will be adopted in Paris?
In addition, there are in the Paris suburbs large enclaves of Muslims. As part of the state of emergency law enforcement officials could undertake sweeping searches of those areas, including entering any homes they wanted.
The attacks come on the heels of the January attacks against the Charlie Hebdo magazine and a kosher supermarket which left 17 dead.
For France’s European neighbors, the attacks are another — and brutally forceful reminder — that the continent is rife with potential jihadists.
The European Union’s liberal freedom of movement policies are likely to come under scrutiny.
Sweden has been implementing new border controls in the wake of the migrant crisis. New measures for sharing intelligence and law enforcement information will be examined.
For the United States, as it moves toward national elections in about a year, Obama’s reticence to prosecute the war against ISIL in the Middle East aggressively will come under fresh scrutiny.
Congressional and public opinion also is likely to harden against Obama’s announced plans to accept up to 10,000 Middle East refugees — almost all without any documentation — into the United States.
French media were initially reporting at least 158 dead and at least 200 wounded in the attacks at a soccer stadium where France and Germany were playing a friendly match, the Bataclan concert hall where an American band was performing, a shopping center near the Louvre and at least two restaurants.
Eyewitnesses described the chaos at some of the scenes as “carnage” with blood everywhere. One survivor said, “they were shooting at us like birds” and others said the attackers were shouting “alla akbar” and “this is for Syria.” Eight attackers were reported by French police to have been killed.
French President Francois Hollande, who was at the soccer stadium as the attack there unfolded, went on national television to denounce the attacks and describe his government’s reactions, including placing 150o army troops on Paris streets, declaring a state of emergency and imposing a curfew in the city, the first since 1944.