By Zachary Toillion
On Friday, November 13, a series of six terrorist attacks rocked Paris around 9 p.m. After hours of confusion and horror, 132 were killed, 349 injured with 96 in critical condition. It was the deadliest attack to hit France since World War II.
The attack had several different targets. The first was a sports stadium where an international soccer game was playing between France and Germany. Suicide bombers attempted to gain entry but were stopped on the way in. According to French media, the original plan was to detonate multiple suicide bombs in the crowd so the carnage would appear on live television. French President Francois Hollande was in attendance, but it remains unclear whether he was a target.
The coordinated attack also targeted a concert happening in the Bataclan Concert Hall which featured a Californian band. Multiple gunmen entered the venue that held hundreds of people. Once inside, the gunmen opened fire into the crowd and detonated suicide vests. Around 100 of the deaths in the attack came from the concert hall. Cafes and bars were also targeted in the citywide attack. Seven of the eight attackers were killed by detonating suicide vests.
Francois Hollande condemned the attacks, characterizing them as “An act of war that was prepared, organized and planned from abroad with internal help. We are going to lead a war which will be pitiless because when terrorists are capable of committing such atrocities, they must be certain that they are facing a determined France, a united France, a France that is together and does not let itself be moved, even if today we express infinite sorrow.” As the attack was still underway, Hollande declared a State of Emergency in France and locked down the nation’s borders. A curfew was put into effect for the first time since 1944.
Paris prosecutor released the identity of suspected terrorist Omar Mostefai, a French national thought to be alive who was questioned the night of the attack by French authorities.
ISIS has taken responsibility for the Paris attack. On November 12, two suicide bombers in Lebanon struck Beirut killing 43 and wounding 239. ISIS took responsibility for the attack. These two events follow claims from ISIS that the downed Russian airliner from November 6 was also their doing. The airline bombing killed all 224 aboard. These claims have not been independently verified. If all the claims of responsibility are true, ISIS will have killed 396 people and wounded an additional 591 in the span of roughly two weeks.
One of the attackers was French and another had a Syrian passport near his body. Many of the attackers were linked to Belgium. On November 4, three were arrested in Belgium for connection to the Paris attacks. Safety precautions were immediately taken in major world cities, including New York and London, as well as at football games in the United States.
Many world powers have joined an international effort to destroy ISIS. In October, Russia began to use the Caspian Sea as a staging area to fire cruise missiles into Syria. The United States has conducted an air war that began in autumn 2014. Since that time, the US has conducted hundreds of airstrikes in Iraq and Syria with support from France and Great Britain.
Other European nations, like Germany and Turkey, have taken in massive amounts of refugees fleeing the violence from Syria.
The attack on Paris came less than 24 hours after two strategically important operations in the fight against ISIS. The first was a drone strike that targeted “Jihadi John,” the moniker given to the executioner in several ISIS videos that featured the beheading of Japanese, American and British citizens. The strike took place near the Syrian city of Raqqa and the Pentagon is saying the U.S. is “reasonably certain” that the strike was successful. At around the same time, Kurdish forces attacked the ISIS stronghold of Sinjar, a city near Fallujah in Iraq. France conducted an additional 20 airstrikes on Raqqa Sunday. 250,000 have died in Syria’s civil war. 6.5 million have been displaced and an additional three million refugees fled to other countries.
Islam in France
The attacks in Paris come on the heels of an attack that took place earlier in the year at Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine that was targeted due to its depiction of Islam’s central religious figure, the Prophet Muhammed. In the Hebdo attack, 12 were killed and 11 more were injured. The concert hall that was targeted is less than 500 meters from the site of the Hebdo shooting. In the aftermath of the Hebdo attack, 54 different threats to French Muslims occurred with 21 acts of violence and 33 threats. Although ISIS originally claimed responsibility, it was later determined that the attack was actually carried out by a branch of Al Qaeda known as Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula, which is based in Yemen.
The attacks and shutdown of the nation’s borders have worried many about backlash against France’s growing Muslim population. In France, a growing far-right movement has taken hold in the form of a political party known as National Front. National Front, led by Marine Le Pen, advocates stricter immigration policies and takes a hard line against public expression of the Islamic faith, such as the hijab. After the attacks, Le Pen stated, “France must annihilate Islamist radicals.” The National Front, which at times had been considered a fairly minor party, has gained political momentum in the 2010s. Hard line conservatives are using information reported by French media that at least one of the attackers was a registered migrant in Greece to justify increased border security and tougher immigration policies. In an interview with MSNBC, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve advocated the “dissolution of mosques where hate is preached.” France’s Muslim population is among the largest in all of Europe with an estimated five million Muslims calling France home.
Muslims leaders decry attack
Islamic leaders and organizations worldwide have condemned the attacks. Nabil Elaraby, the secretary general for the League of Arab States, issued a statement saying, ”These terrorist attacks show that the international community must focus its efforts and to use all legal tools and means to bring those responsible to justice.” Iyad bin Amin Madani, the secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, an organization described as “the collective voice of the Muslim people,” decried the attacks and urged the international community to reject the ideology of the attackers and champion the values of freedom and equality. In a televised statement, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah offered sympathies, stating that “People of the region of Arab and Islamic countries who are living under the brutality of ISIS, including Lebanon, which suffered a few days ago from it, are the most aware and sympathetic of what hit the French nation last night.”
The world reacts
Leaders all over the world have expressed sympathy for the attacks. President Obama stated that “This is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share” before departing the U.S. for Turkey to attend the G20 Summit with various world leaders. At the summit, Obama rejected sending ground troops into Syria as well as more restrictions being put in place for refugees coming into the country. French President Francois Hollande cancelled his appearance at the event.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani issued a statement which read, “On behalf of the great nation of Iran, who’s suffered evils of terrorism, I condemn the Paris Attacks.” Rouhani then canceled previously planned trips to Italy, France and the Vatican.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued a statement less sympathetic than other world leaders, claiming “Yesterday France has known what we have been living in Syria over the past five years.” Secretary of State John Kerry visited France Monday where he mention that “We are all Parisians.”
Republican candidates for president have faulted the Obama administration for not doing enough to deal with ISIS. Many have argued that access to firearms could have prevented the attack. Donald Trump took the opportunity to champion his tough on immigration policy stance. The Democrats talked about the events in Paris at length in their second televised debate in which all three expressed support for leading a coalition to deal with ISIS. However, they did not outline whether that would include ground forces.
Governors in over a dozen states have contacted state agencies and instructed them not to take in new refugees. Federal law from 1980 states the federal government makes the decision in regard to accepting refugees. In the coming days and weeks policymakers worldwide will deliberate on what action to take in response to the events in Paris.