Opinion: Paris attackers bring Mideast urban warfare to Europe

Attack on Charlie HebdoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS* | intelNews.org
Until Wednesday morning, the last time the offices of Charlie Hebdo, France’s best known satirical weekly, were attacked was on November 2, 2011. On that day, unknown assailants had thrown Molotov cocktails into the premises, setting them on fire. Since that attack, France has seen its share of Islamist-inspired terrorist incidents. In March of 2012, French citizen Mohammed Merah shot dead three French soldiers before attacking a Jewish school in Toulouse, where he killed three students and a teacher. Last May, authorities in Marseille arrested another Frenchman, Mehdi Nemmouche, for opening fire at a Jewish museum in Belgian capital Brussels earlier that month, killing a French national and two Israeli citizens. And the French public has been shocked in recent months by a number of seemingly random attacks on pedestrians by vehicles driven by Muslim Frenchmen, who appear to be politically motivated.

The common thread running through these incidents is that they were all haphazardly planned and executed by ‘lone-wolf’ attackers, who were markedly limited in both resources and skill. But the men implicated in Wednesday’s attack on Charlie Hebdo, which left 12 people dead, were different. The two brothers, Cherif and Said Kouachi, who are said to be the main perpetrators of the assault, are believed to have “returned to France from Syria in the last year”, according to MSNBC. Undoubtedly, the two siblings saw action in the Syrian armed conflict, which is primarily fought in urban settings, and were systematically trained in urban warfare by men with considerable experience in it.

This explains their proficient delivery on Wednesday, as shown in the footage of the bloody attack, which has emerged since. The assailants arrived at their target carrying Kalashnikov rifles and magazines, neither of which can be easily acquired in France. Once inside the building, they remained there for a good 12 minutes, carefully executing their victims, some of whom they methodically sought out by name. They exited just as they entered, calm and collected. Even when they encountered a police vehicle, they stopped, aimed and shot at its passengers with considerable discipline, firing single or —in a handful of cases— double shots, instead of opting for bursts of rapid fire, which is the hallmark of inexperienced users of automatic rifles in moments of panic. After executing the police officers, they calmly walked back into their getaway vehicle and slowly drove away. It has been reported that at no point did they break the speed limit during their escape.

Of course, Europe is not new to this. The French experienced it in the days of the Algerian War of Independence, which killed nearly 200,000 people in North Africa and in France. The British faced until recently with the Provisional Irish Republican Army, whose military efficiency makes the al-Qaeda of today seem clumsy in comparison. And there have been a host of other armed groups, including Revolutionary Organization 17 November in Greece, the Red Brigades in Italy, and the Red Army Faction in Germany, whose militant dedication is certainly comparable to the Jihadists of today. There is no question that Wednesday’s attack in Paris has brought the perils of Middle Eastern urban warfare to Europe. But what is needed now is meticulous police work, coupled with a renewed focus on prevention by France’s formidable intelligence community, which features some of the best-known agencies in the world.

In the meantime, what is perhaps more dangerous than masked gunmen murdering journalists in downtown Paris is a Europe divided by race, religion and creed. Europe has overcome such threats before, and it will do so again, but it must remain calm, united and inclusive. The highest honor to the victims of Wednesday’s senseless attack would be for the Europeans to vouch to fight for these very values, which distinguish the progress of civilization from the brutality of religious intolerance.

* Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis teaches and authors widely on subjects relating to intelligence practice and reform. He is Senior Editor at intelNews.org.

About intelNews
Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

4 Responses to Opinion: Paris attackers bring Mideast urban warfare to Europe

  1. Anonymous says:

    its a sad day when free speech costs you your life……

    Time to take the gloves off with these terrorists

  2. TFH says:

    Even though these two brothers (allegedly) clamed to be acting only on behalf of one particular worldview/group of extremists, what they did was striking a blow for all extremists, also the extremists of the polar opposite in political views, like Breivik. The natural reaction of the opposition, still within the same extremist point of view is to strike back, do something worse and then it spirals the extremists hope and in the end there will only be left a black and white battlefield with no confusing grey areas in between.

  3. AlbertE. says:

    I would be interested to know if these villains were taking sedatives or opiates prior to the shootings. Such coolness under stress is often an indication of such drug taking.

    I have thought the bad guys had an insider at Charlie Hebdo. Those cartoonists were all gathered in one room at one time for their weekly meeting and that made the job of the assassins that much more easier.

  4. TFH says:

    One piece I find is missing from the news, why did the Kouachi’s go to that particular printing press in a suburb of Paris, was it because it had ties to the Charlie hebdo publication or was it a random choice?

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