Monday, November 16, 2015

Concerning Threats and Realities

"We are facing an act of war organized by an army of terrorist jihadists that had already organized and planned attacks in the past."
"Five attacks have been thwarted since this summer. But we have always said that there is no such thing as zero risk. We have always said that France could face new terrorist attacks."
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls

"I’m indignant about the foreign policy of France."
"What we’ve done the last four years is responsible for what happened here. France is implicated. France never should have gotten involved in Syria."
Yannis Hassany, 25, Parisian student, Syrian/Lebanese descent

French soldiers patrol the Eiffel Tower, which remained closed on the first of three days of national mourning in Paris. Thousands of French troops deployed around Paris on Sunday, and tourist sites stood shuttered.
"It wasn't just a terrorist attack, it was a massacre. Dozens of people were shot right in front of me. Pools of blood filled the floor. Cries of grown men who held their girlfriends dead bodies pierced the small music venue. Futures demolished, families heartbroken. in an instant. Shocked and alone, I pretended to be dead for over an hour, lying among people who could see their loved ones motionless.""The atmosphere was so happy and everyone was dancing and smiling and then when the men came through the front entrance and began the shooting, we naiively believed it was all part of the show."
"The way they meticoulsy aimed at shot people around the standing area i was in the centre of without any consideration for human life," she writes. "It didn't feel real. i expected any moment for someone to say it was just a nightmare."
"As i lay down in the blood of strangers and waiting for my bullet to end my mere 22 years, I envisioned every face that I have ever loved and whispered I love you, over and over again. reflecting on the highlights of my life. Wishing that those i love knew just how much, wishing that they knew that no matter what happened to me, to keep belieivng in the good in people. to not let those men win." 
Isobel Bowdery,  22-year-old South African student, Paris
Europe is shocked and concerned; shocked for France in solidarity with a sister-country, and concerned at the reach of Islamic State signalling that it is more sophisticated and capable of reaching out to citizens of European countries, turning them into lethal weapons of mass destruction. Any coalition partners in the U.S.-led air strikes against ISIL in Syria and Iraq will now have reason to wonder whether they're next. Russia, with its own alliance with the Syrian regime and its air strikes has already been introduced to how lethally ISIL can strike.

From the battlefields of the Middle East and the exhibitionism of malicious dread that Islamic State is capable of instilling in those who see the results of their invading exploits and their murderous atrocities, to the outreach to European Muslims, convinced to return to take combat training in Syria to carry that knowledge back with them to Europe or to North America and then practise what ISIL preaches, anticipation of more of these horrendous attacks to come has given many heads of government much to think about.

Intelligence officials in Germany and Spain are focusing on security of French institutions in their countries, more than they appear to be on the safety of their own nationals. Spain experienced its own atrocity when al-Qaeda bombed a Madrid train killing 191 people and causing injury to an additional two thousand and fifty people in 2004. That horrible shock sufficed to lead the incoming Spanish government to withdraw its troops with the coalition in Afghanistan. But of course, France has extended its military more than its Continental neighbours in its African and Mideast involvement in fighting Islamist terrorism.

Iraqi officials now claim that they had warned Paris that murmurings out of Raqqa, Syria were all about operators trained for a specific attack, and the intended target was France. According to those officials a sleeper cell in France supported the attackers post-training to aid in the execution of the attacks. Four of those Iraqi intelligence officials claim they warned France of the potential of such an attack. French intelligence officials for their part, in a typical metaphorical French shrug, respond that such warnings are received by them in the dime-a-dozen category.

And France has already responded in kind in Syria, striking Islamic State militants in their own coordinated assault. The stepped-up air strikes focused on Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of the Islamic State caliphate. So, in a sense, each has targeted the other's capital. So far, Islamic State has the upper hand in morbid casualties from their lethal strike. It is doubtful that Raqqa itself will receive the full force of lethal strikes for fear of killing and injuring Syrians held hostage as it were in Raqqa, as Syrian citizens of the city.

It is now known that the Friday attackers in Paris communicated before their deadly attacks with known Islamic State members in Syria. Evidence that Islamic State coordinated or aided in carrying out the attacks rather than merely inspiring them is gathering. Islamic State lost little time in releasing statements on Saturday claiming responsibility for the attacks; pride of accomplishment. And indications are that the future may hold many more such attempts, well planned and executed and potentially successful in their outcome, from ISIL's point of view.

According to European officials briefed on the investigation thus far, the attackers are believed to have communicated using encryption technology. It was not clear whether the encryption represented broadly used communications tools, like WhatsApp, which the authorities have a hard time monitoring, or whether some bright light among them had designed an encryption tool of their own. Such technology represents a growing concern and a challenge to intelligence officials to counter the growing use of encryption
Of particular surprise and no little concern is the disciplined manner in which some of the attackers behaved throughout the assault, giving ample evidence of some extensive military-style training — for example, one attacker continuing shooting while another reloaded his weapon — also suggested that the manoeuvres involved considerable planning and direction from an organized group, according to a French official.

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