Situation Report on Paris Attacks

Situation Report/Paris Attacks
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On Friday, November 13th, at around 9:15 PM local time, several simultaneous terrorist attacks were carried out in multiple locations throughout the city of Paris. In a press conference the following morning, French President François Hollande attributed the acts of terrorism to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and shortly thereafter, ISIL claimed responsibility for the attacks on Twitter. At least 129 people have been confirmed killed, and 415 more were hospitalized due to injuries sustained during the attacks.

The perpetrators focused their attacks on soft targets, including restaurants, bars, a concert hall, and a sports arena, with the intention of inflicting mass causalities of innocent civilians while facing minimal resistance. Eight of the attackers are confirmed dead, including seven who detonated suicide vests upon being engaged by law enforcement. At this time, it is unclear how many additional perpetrators and collaborators remain at large, but French authorities are working to locate at least one additional suspected terrorist following the arrest of another in Belgium on Monday, November 16th.

President Hollande immediately declared a state of emergency, which remains in effect, in addition to enacting broad security powers, some of which had not been invoked since WWII. These powers include the authority to confiscate weapons, close venues, and shut down public transportation. Furthermore, all schools, museums, libraries, and markets, as well as most businesses, will remain closed through at least Tuesday. Border restrictions have also been put in place, and a curfew is in effect because at least one suspected terrorist remains at large.

On Twitter, there has been a significant spike in tweets by known ISIL supporters since the attacks took place. The number of tweets indicates more than the normal rallying of ISIL supporters following attacks. Hashtags that are currently trending among supporters include #Caliphate_State_Strikes_France and #Crusader_France_On_Fire. Al-Hayat Media Center, ISIL’s media outlet, took responsibility for the act on Twitter, stating, “Today, brothers from all across the world set foot in Gaul and remind the kaffir (disbelievers) in dur Al Kuffr (the land of disbelievers) that we live beside you…We watch you when you go to sleep. And today we bring you your death…Today we reaffirm the fact we are the Islamic State…Our brothers who carried out these miracles in Gaul, the day of 29th and 30th Muharram, 1437 Hijiri.

Prior to the official announcement, the pro-ISIL media group al-Samood posted, “Same as you kill you are killed, and we have promised you that we will move the battles to your own homes, and then, you may taste our severity.” ISIL-related outlets also began releasing media targeting Paris and the rest of France, some of which portray dead children and destroyed buildings, which they claim to be the result of French airstrikes in Syria and Iraq. However shocking, the targeting of Paris should not be a complete surprise. Abu Muhammad al-‘Adnani, an ISIL-spokesman, stated in a speech in March of this year that ISIL would attack “Paris before Rome.” Along with a trove of ISIL-published anti-French media, the terrorist attack in Paris seems to confirm this.

With hundreds of French citizens currently fighting in Syria and Iraq and several thousand known ISIL sympathizers still in France, French authorities have had their hands full gathering intelligence and making arrests. In France and other western countries, there have been ongoing concerns about foreign fighters carrying out acts of terrorism in their home countries. While this threat is very real, most analysts have agreed that the threat from self-radicalized or inspired extremists remains the largest challenge.

It is too soon to know whether some of the attackers were French citizens who had been trained abroad or were self-radicalized in France. It is possible that some of the terrorists were foreign operatives, and at least one of Friday’s attackers was found to be in possession of Syrian and Egyptian passports.

In light of Friday’s terrorist attack in Paris and ongoing rhetoric from ISIL, there is an increasing threat to Westerners across Europe, as well as here in the United States. Historically, ISIL has attempted to attract foreigners to travel to Syria and Iraq or, alternatively, to one of its Wilayats (states). However, with increasing measures to prevent citizens from traveling to join ISIL and the fact that ISIL is under increasing military pressure in Syria and Iraq, ISIL has begun a campaign to convince those it inspires to set up cells and carry out simple attacks on soft targets in their home countries. This is a tactic that al-Qa’ida has also tried to adopt in recent years. Notably, there are some similarities bwteen al-Qa’ida’s tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) and those seen in Friday’s attacks, an indication that ISIL is being forced to adapt. It is likely that ISIL will continue to attempt to carry out acts of terrorism outside of its traditional areas of operation, as seen just a day prior in the terrorist attack in Beirut, which killed 43 and injured 200. Where ISIL cannot send its operatives, it will continue to attempt to inspire, radicalize, and coordinate attacks.

 

CONSIDERATIONS

 

The areas assessed as being at the highest risk of an attack from fundamentalist Islamic terrorist groups such as ISIL are Western Europe, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Russia, and major US cities. This is far from all potentially targeted areas. Rather, it is simply a list of high-risk locations that have been targeted by extremists in the past and included most frequently in recent ISIL media.

The UK terror threat level, as assessed by MI5, with five categories ranging from "low" to "critical" is currently "severe," the second highest rating. The threat from terrorism is rated as "high" in more than 30 countries around the world, including holiday vacation spots such as Spain, Turkey, and Belgium, which are now at the same level as Libya, Pakistan, and Somalia.

Consequently, increased security assessment and planning should be instituted when organizing events or attending large venues. Additionally, it would be prudent to begin instituting travel security procedures, including briefings, monitoring, and executive protection, when applicable.

Airports and train stations remain open; however, travelers may expect delays due to heightened security measures.  For the latest information, please visit ratp.fr. We encourage travelers to contact transport companies for the latest information and to arrive at airports and train stations early.

The French Government has decided to re-establish border controls, and movement may be restricted in some areas.

Public events in Paris have been cancelled, and public monuments, tourist sites, and many retail outlets may remain closed. The American Battle Monuments Commission has temporarily closed US cemeteries in France.

 

The US Embassy in Paris is located at 2 Avenue Gabriel 75008. You may contact them at
 +(33)(0)1 43-12-22-22 or by email at Citizeninfo@state.gov. The after-hours emergency number for US citizens is +(33)(1) 43-12-22-22.

The Canadian Embassy in Paris is located at 35 Montaigne Avenue, 75008. You may contact them at +33(0)1 44-43-29-02 or by email at paris-consulaire@international.gc.ca. In the case of any emergency, contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa at 613-996-8885.

The British Embassy is Paris is located at 35, rue du Faubourg St Honoré Paris Cedex 0875383, Paris. An emergency service is in operation after hours and can be contacted at +33(0)1 44-51-31-00.

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360 Worldwide Security is an international risk mitigation and security company based in Houston, Texas, with a support office in London, England. 360 Worldwide Security provides customized travel security solutions, in addition to a full suite of global security services.

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