Getty Images (photo and caption as reported by NBC).
Friday night, November 13, 2015, saw a wave of terror attacks ripping through the French capital of Paris, with multiple locations in the tenth and eleventh arrondissements being targeted by shootings, explosions, and a hostage situation. Six locations experienced the greatest carnage, including diner shootings (by assailants spraying automatic weapons fire from Kalashnikov assault rifles), explosions outside of the Stade de France football stadium and elsewhere, and mass terror in the Bataclan theater where an American rock group, the California-based “Eagles of Death Metal” was playing. The area of terror was adjacent to the neighborhood of the attacks against Charlie Hebdo earlier this year, in January.
The Stade de France was hosting a game (a so-called “friendly”) between Germany and France, attended by the President of France, Francois Hollande. While no incidents took place in the stadium, explosions could be heard outside, and the president was evacuated. The game, however, continued, and the French attendees sang the national anthem, “Marseilles,” as they left the stadium after the game’s conclusion.
Bataclan was held by several assailants in a hostage situation until a police assault, which apparently triggered suicide detonations by the assailants. While the site was the center of gravity of the night’s death toll, the band playing there is reported to be safe and all their people accounted for. There were, however, numerous other Americans involved in the events of the night, including dead and injured.
During the carnage, seven assailants killed themselves with suicide detonations, and an eighth was shot and killed by the police. Latest reports by AP, NBC, and other agencies have the police continuing a search for possible additional assailants or accomplices; none are currently known (or at least publicly reported) to be at large, however. One of the assailants was a French citizen, known to have links to “Islamic extremist activity” (as AP reports); and another reportedly had a Syrian passport, but his nationality has not been reported. As of Saturday morning, no other personal information has been reported on any of the assailants.
During the attacks, the French government declared a state of emergency, and tightened security at the border (mostly through repealing open-border measures enacted through the European Union). In addition, airport security was heightened, with NBC reporter Cassandra Vinograd describing “hours-long delays” at the airports. The terror of Friday the 13th is described by some reporters as constituting the deadliest attack on France since World War II, with (as of Saturday morning) 127 reported dead, and some 200 injuries, dozens critically.
In the wake of the attack, ISIS supporters have circulated unconfirmed statements of responsibility for the action. NBC reports that, “ISIS has previously threatened France due to its military operations against the group in Syria and Iraq.” Assuming their claims of responsibility are true, and with the likelihood that the recent downing of a Russian airliner in the Sinai was also an ISIS operation, the group’s opponents may now be facing an expanded terror campaign, as ISIS moves its area of operations beyond Syria and Iraq. President Hollande has vowed to attack ISIS “without mercy” in response to the attacks, which he described as “an act of war that was prepared, organized, planned from abroad with internal help.”
On Friday night, and Saturday morning, France was greeted with international support from multiple quarters. President Obama called the attack an atrocity against “all humanity,” and the FBI’s legal attache in Paris aided French officials in their investigations. In the meantime, the US Department of Homeland Security determined that there was “no credible threat to the US.” However, some US cities, like LA, saw a greater police presence at certain key sites and public venues. Other expressions of support to France poured in from foreign leaders like British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (as well as President Putin). Iranian President Hassan Rouhani condemned the attacks as a “crime against humanity,” and the Kuwaiti, Qatari, Saudi, and Indonesian governments uttered similar condemnations and expressed their solidarity with France. Facebook saw numerous expressions of personal solidarity with France; and Facebook deployed its “Safety Check” capability developed last year, enabling survivors to post their status to friends and loved ones (the capability sends a message about the sender’s safety, that appears in FB friends’ notification lists, therefore taking precedence over regular posts).
On Saturday morning, as police continued to search for accomplices and more answers, numerous public facilities and sites were closed throughout and nearby Paris, including museums, schools, the Eiffel Tower, the Disney theme park, etc. Border and airport security remained tightened. In the meantime, France and the rest of the world have to consider the ramifications of a post-911 world, as more and more groups and causes embrace the use of terror to push their message and agenda.