Attack on Paris leaves 132 dead
Paris was the scene of a series of coordinated terrorist attacks on the evening of Friday, Nov. 13 that have, at the time of this writing, left 132 dead and more than 350 injured.
Beginning just after 9 p.m. in Paris, two suicide bombers detonated themselves outside of the Stade de France, where the French national men’s soccer team were squaring off in a friendly match against the reigning World Cup champions, Germany. French President Francois Hollande was in attendance. According to reports, one of the bombers had a ticket to the match and had planned on committing the act within the confines of the stadium, but his explosive vest was discovered by security. Instead, he backed away from security officials and detonated himself outside the stadium. The initial two explosions, as well as a third that came shortly before 10 p.m., could be heard on television broadcasts of the match.
Beginning at 9:25 p.m., a series of mass shootings occurred throughout the city. The first shootings took place on the rue Bichat and the rue Alibert, situated near the Canal Saint-Martin in the 10th arrondissement. Armed with Kalashnikov-style assault rifles, the assailants initially opened fire at people outside Le Carillon, a café and bar. They then moved across the rue Bichat and shot at restaurant goers at Le Petit Cambodge. Fifteen people were killed and 10 were severely wounded in the initial barrage, with over 100 shots fired. The attackers were shuttled around in a black car with Belgian plates.
Several minutes later, gunmen began to shoot in front of À La Bonne Bière, a bar, at the intersection of rue Fontaine au Roi and rue Faubourg du Temple in the 11th arrondissement, killing five people and severely injuring eight. Again, the attackers utilized a black vehicle and fire approximately 100 rounds.
A few minutes passed before gunmen arrived and opened fire upon the terrace of La Belle Equipe, a restaurant on the rue de Charonne. Reports on the number of dead vary between 18 and 19, with nine individuals being seriously wounded. Once more, a black car was utilized and around 100 shots were fired.
At approximately 9:40 p.m., a man took a seat at Comptoir Voltaire, a restaurant on the boulevard Voltaire, also in the 11th arrondissement. After placing an order, he detonated an explosive vest and killed himself, while injuring 15 people, one critically.
Simultaneously, the Bataclan, a historic concert venue with a history of pro-Israel politics, was besieged by three attackers during a performance by the American rock band Eagles of Death Metal. The gunmen entered the hall and began to fire indiscriminately at the 1,500 concert goers. They were described by a witness as “very calm, very determined.” Individuals within the concert hall at the time of the event reported on social media that the attackers were shooting people “execution-style” on the floor of the theater. Some witnesses reported that the assailants tossed grenades into the crowd. When police began to siege the theater just after midnight, two of the attackers detonated suicide vests, while the third had his vest detonate after being shot by police.
The attacks, which consisted of multiple mass shootings and suicide bombings at various cultural landmarks throughout Paris, were the second major terroristic tragedy to befall the capital of France this year. On January 7, two gunmen stormed the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical French newspaper, killing 12 and injuring 11. Before the perpetrators—Chérif and Saïd Kouachi—were killed by French authorities on January 9 along with a co-conspirator, another five were killed and an additional 11 wounded. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for this attack.
However, the severity of the latest attack caused France to close its borders and place Paris under martial law for the first time since 1944. In spite of this, the hashtag #PorteOuverte, French for “open door,” spread throughout Paris during the attacks. The initiative was sparked as a means to offer shelter to anyone seeking cover from the deadly spree.
The Islamic State (ISIS) issued a statement in the aftermath of the attacks claiming responsibility. Questions have arisen regarding the statement as the group only used publicly reported information within their statement, a notable deviation from their standard practice of lionizing its attackers and outlining the planning stage of their attacks. However, officials from both France and the U.S. have stated that encrypted communications have since been uncovered that revealed the attackers had communicated with ISIS prior to the attack.
Some speculation has been made regarding the possibility that al-Qaeda is actually responsible for the incident, due to the sophistication of the operation. A similar assault upon the Indian metropolis of Mumbai in 2008—which left 164 dead and at least 308 wounded—was perpetrated by Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani extremist group frequently affiliated with al-Qaeda. The links between the two groups have been spotty, but murdered Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad had a book published posthumously—”Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11”—which revealed links between the groups.
However, the prevailing notion at this time is that this is the work of ISIS. If this is indeed the case, these attacks represent the latest in the expanding scope of the extremist group’s activities. Just days before the Parisian attacks, ISIS claimed responsibility for two suicide bombings in Beirut, which left 43 dead. The group also have alleged that they are behind the recent crash of Metrojet 9268, a Russian airliner that crashed in Egypt and left 224 dead.
Furthermore, it was revealed that at least one of the assailants, 25-year-old Ahmed Almuhamed, had gained access to France by posing as a Syrian refugee. This maneuver highlights the disturbing savvy of ISIS, which is now expanding beyond its initial modus operandi to capture the attention it needs.
Knowing full well that Europe has been struggling to deal with the refugee problem it caused—and knowing that much of the struggling is the result of feverish levels of anti-immigration sentiment around the continent—ISIS seems to have planted an operative among the hordes of fleeing Syrians and made Europeans’ worst fears about the situation come to life. This, coupled with the aforementioned expansion of its terrorist activity, is likely being done in an effort to achieve its ultimate goal: the end of the world.
Unlike the clandestine, shadowy nature of al-Qaeda—which was intentionally formed to operate in numerous autonomous cells around the globe—the Islamic State requires territory to maintain its legitimacy as a caliphate. As such, most of the Islamic State’s concern is with growing its own borders, a process which was now “contained,” U.S. President Barack Obama said on Thursday, Nov. 12 during an interview with ABC.
However, more than seeing their territory grow, ISIS wishes to see a Western army enter the city of Dabiq in Syria. This city, which is, in terms of modern military strategy, unimportant, is said to be home to the beginning of the end of the world. According to the words of the Prophet Muhammed, Dabiq would be where the armies of Islam would face off against the crusading armies of the West, thus initiating a countdown to the apocalypse. During the Nov. 2014 beheading video of aid worker Peter Kassig, the masked executioner said, “Here we are, burying the first American crusader in Dabiq, eagerly waiting for the remainder of your armies to arrive.”
According to scripture, a Western invasion would be the catalyst for the caliphate sacking Istanbul and expand to cover much of the world before an anti-Messiah, known in Muslim apocalyptic literature as Dajjal, would come from eastern Iran to wipe out the majority of the caliphate. With only 5,000 members remaining, the Islamic State would find itself backed into Jerusalem before Jesus—the second-most-revered prophet in Islam—would return to Earth to kill Dajjal and lead the Muslims onto victory. Clearly an on-the-ground military effort is not feared by ISIS, but would in fact be relished as proof of the true beginning of a heavenly ordained mission.
The group will likely use the Parisian attacks as a means by which to goad Western powers into beginning such a conflict. For now, however, European authorities are conducting a manhunt for one of the suspected perpetrators as they try to piece together the intricacies of this latest major attack.
Sources: Al-Jazeera, The Atlantic, BBC, CNN, Epoch Times, “The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11” by Lawrence Wright, New York Times, Reuters, Vox, Wall Street Journal