Paris attack is Europe’s security nightmare

November 14, 2015
French police with protective shields walk in line near the Bataclan concert hall following fatal shootings in Paris, France, November 14, 2015. Gunmen and bombers attacked busy restaurants, bars and a concert hall at locations around Paris on Friday evening, killing dozens of people in what a shaken French President described as an unprecedented terrorist attack.  REUTERS/Christian Hartmann   - RTS6WWE

French police with protective shields walk in line near the Bataclan concert hall following fatal shootings in Paris, France, November 14, 2015. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

The series of coordinated attacks on multiple civilian locations in Paris on Friday night has long been the stuff of nightmares for European security officials.

Ever since the Mumbai attacks of 2008 — in which more than 175 people, including the militants, were killed in a series of coordinated strikes around the city — the fear has been of a similar attack in Europe by Islamist militants.

That assault showed that a relatively small number of dedicated, suicidal attackers with automatic weapons and sufficient ammunition could wreak havoc in a relatively confined urban area. In 2013, Islamist militants demonstrated the same thing again in Nairobi, Kenya, at the Westgate shopping mall — with a final death toll of 67.

Since Mumbai, where the hostage drama played out for three days, most security forces operate on a very simple doctrine — attempt to seize back buildings and kill the militants as quickly as possible, even with all the risks that entails.

Such attacks, of course, could theoretically take place anywhere. Indeed, the largest in Europe to date was the 2011 attack by lone Norwegian gunman Anders Breivik. He killed 69 people at a political youth camp on the island of Utoya after killing another eight with a bomb in the center of Oslo.

France, though — and Paris in particular — was already seen as a likely top target, particularly after the attack on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo less than a year ago.

Since major bombings such as the 2005 attacks on the London transport system and bombings in Madrid the previous year, law enforcement agencies have become more effective at detecting and blocking access to explosives. And since 9/11, attacks on aircraft have been much more difficult.

Despite avoiding the Iraq war and only playing a limited role in Afghanistan, France has taken a much greater role in recent conflicts such as the war in Libya and the fight against Islamic State and militant groups in its former colonies in West Africa.

Those actions — like the independence war in Algeria in the 1960s – were seen as pushing France dramatically up the militant target list. France has long also had issues with the integration of its Muslim population — something these attacks may exacerbate further.

The wider geopolitical fallout of the attacks is much harder to model.

If the attack does emerge to have been carried out by Islamic State, which has claimed responsibility, it will deliver the group a significant propaganda victory after a series of reverses including the apparent death in a drone strike of Mohammed Emwazi, the British-born Islamic State executioner dubbed “Jihadi John.”

The Paris assault has prompted France’s President Francois Hollande to promise a strengthened effort to destroy the group. Whether that will mean a shift away from removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power is another question, though. Russia — which lost a passenger plane carrying 224 passengers and crew to a suspected bomb on Oct. 31 — will almost certainly argue the need for solidarity in fighting the militants, rather than targeting Assad.

At the very least, it will further complicate Europe’s struggle to work out what to do with the ever-growing numbers of refugees from Middle East war zones.

Even if it wished to, the continent has little real option to stop the flow of the mostly Muslim migrants. Worries over a repeat of the Paris attack, however, could further intensified moves to shore up borders and act as the final nail in the coffin of the supposedly borderless nature of the European Union.

11 comments

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This makes a stronger case of screening Syrian refugees Obama wants to bring into the U.S., these are not the days of past when immigrants came to the U.S. Thrilled to be here an adapt to its ways. In this new world of religious fanatics coupled with librial western mind sets is certainly a recipe for disaster in the U S.. Add to this the all time low of mortal in the police departments across the country and you have the perfect storm for a major terrorist attack that could happen anywhere. It’s a shame innocent people have to die because the government didn’t do its job screening the masses coming into France. Lets just hope the U.S.can learn from this, our forefathers did’t keep people coming to the U.S. At Ellis island for nothing.

Posted by cheeze | Report as abusive

Scary, because these 8 had to have a very large network of assistance in France to pull this off.

Posted by MEOilMan | Report as abusive

I think as we spend billions of dollars on security screening at airports and elsewhere and subject 100s of millions of innocents to go through the humiliating security screening of taking off shows, body patting, etc, we are giving into the objectives of the animals living among us as humans. We can secure the airports and other closed installations but cannot secure every public gathering, every bus, every train.. So, the ONLY solution we have is to eliminate these animals at whatsoever costs. Increasing security is not a solution.

Posted by ForFact | Report as abusive

nice. now we wait for the “comment scooch” to order and/or delete what doesn’t conform to their agenda.
This terror incident is horrific but, no less terrifying than what the citizens of the middle east are regularly beset with. they bleed and die in the same manner but don’t receive near the same amount of sympathy or press coverage. The deaths of these many French hold the same amount of sorrow and sympathy as the deaths of Iraqis, Palestinians, British, Egyptian, and so on.

Past the senseless murder of civilians is the press and politicians who will treat this incident any differently than other murders committed around the world.

Posted by Laster | Report as abusive

The author forgot to mention Moscow theater siege, Belsan school siege ,Russian apartment bombings etc …

Posted by Macedonian | Report as abusive

A nuclear strike on Riyadh would be expected response.

Posted by Macedonian | Report as abusive

…and the training camps in Bosnia, Kosovo, Albania and the western part of Macedonia should be legit targets together with the logistic and monetary center in Vienna Austria.

Posted by Macedonian | Report as abusive

Your relation of the events is too advantageous for Hollande. France crossed at present an electoral campaign for recently managed new provinces and the president’s parti scared about loosing this election. No doubt that this situation created a slackening in the safety that terrorists might use. Besides there is no proof that the attack is coming from Daech and the sunni side. The Sunni are not the ennemy of France. At the openning of the G 20 the guilty man on the edge is Bachar el Assad. Till now he could have saved his head because of the help of the Russia. But this support also is weakening, and G20 could be strong enough to undo the protection that the security counsel of UN draw around him.Let’s hope that because of the Paris’s coup G20 will be able to make his mind concerning the future of Syria in pushing back definitively Bachar El Assad.

Posted by meleze | Report as abusive

ANY country that does not have secure borders is no longer a sovereign nation. We in the US are no longer have a sovereign nation, nor are our citizens and legal immigrants safe from invasion by so-called “refugees”. Obama is inviting and welcoming even more Muslims into the US without proper vetting – and who knows how many of them are supporters of ISIS? The US government doesn’t know – and evidently doesn’t care.

The EU countries are not safe, now is any other country if its borders are not secure. You would not call a fumigator to take care of ridding your home of vermin, but tell him to leave a few that you think might be friendly little critters and not procreate or become hordes attacking you home again.

We cannot take chances with Muslims, since their so-called “religion” calls for the conversion of EVERYONE – and if the “infidels” will not convert, then they will face beheading, burning alive, rape, enslavement in the name of Allah.

Posted by AZreb | Report as abusive

forgot the “moderate be-headers” in Syria.

Posted by Macedonian | Report as abusive

someone above wrote: “Scary, because these 8 had to have a very large network of assistance in France to pull this off.”

Not really. Just some guns and ammo and home-made explosives. Doesn’t really take a ‘network.’ Actually much like an average day in America. (we lose 80 a day here to gun violence). So maybe 1.5 average days in America.

Posted by Solidar | Report as abusive