Paris | Simultaneous attacks on multiple targets by gunmen and suicide bombers working in unison is a nightmare scenario that France’s anti-terror agencies had dreaded for months came true in Paris. Security officials and experts have predicted that an unprecedented attack was in the offing, and would be nigh impossible to thwart.
Determined guys who are prepared to die, who have studied their target and have a solid operational background, they can do a lot of damage, Yves Trotignon, who used to work for DGSE intelligence agency’s anti-terrorist service, recently told. More jihadist fighters are graduating as veterans every day. Faced with that, it has to be said, security services are overwhelmed, he said.
Eight assailants, a mix of gunmen and suicide bombers killed more than 120 people and wounded over 200 in attacks at six popular Parisian recreational spots late Friday. Targets included the Bataclan concert hall and eateries around the Stade de France sports stadium where a France-Germany football match was underway.
Also hit was a restaurant in a vibey Parisian neighbourhood near Republique square, not far from the erstwhile offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine where 12 people were gunned down in January. The events of Friday were exactly the kind of multi-pronged attack authorities had been dreading. So far this year they have been fortunate : more than one potential bloodbath was prevented by the offender’s own ineptitude.
In April, Algerian IT student Sid Ahmed Ghlam was arrested after he shot himself in the leg by accident, leading police to uncover a plot to attack a church in Paris’ Villejuif suburb. And in August, two off-duty US servicemen and a friend overpowered a gunman who opened fire on passengers on a high-speed train from Amsterdam to Paris.
But the authorities’ luck was bound to run out as radicalised Muslims return from warzones battle-hardened and well-trained, said the experts. And they are coming home in such great numbers that it is impossible to keep tabs on them all.
The risk is greatest from groups of young men who return hardened from conflicts, maybe in Syria, maybe Libya or Yemen, then obtain weapons in France and go over into action, Trotignon said. Since the January slaying of 17 people in joint attacks on Charlie Hebdo, known for its satirical caricatures of Islam, and a Jewish supermarket elsewhere in Paris, anti-terror, intelligence, police and rescue services have been rehearsing for another such multi-pronged assault.
Subscribe to our email newsletter.