The AP is reporting that 26 people (expect that number to rise) have been killed in a series of terrorist attacks in Paris this evening. A shooting at the Bataclan Theater resulted in multiple deaths and may now have become a hostage situation (perhaps 60 hostages are being held), and there’s also been another reported shooting at a restaurant that may have been carried out by the same shooter(s). There have also been multiple explosions reported near the Stade de Paris, where a France-Germany football match was ongoing earlier this evening and which caused the evacuation of French President François Hollande from the facility.
I’m seeing reports on the TV that the stadium bombings were suicide attacks, which obviously narrows the pool of potential suspects considerably. I’ll try to update this later as more is learned.
The latest casualty figure is 43 killed, though there are scattered reports as high as 60. Either of those figures is going to rise, especially once the carnage inside the Bataclan Theater becomes clear. There are believed to be 100+ people held in the theater, there have been reports that the shooters there have been killing people, and there have also been reports of explosions:
Reports are just coming in that police raided Bataclan and may have killed 2 or more attackers. I expect the scene inside will be horrifying.
I was right:
If 100 people were killed at Bataclan alone, then the overall death toll stands somewhere around 150 at this point, likely more than that.
President Hollande declared a nationwide state of emergency earlier, which among other things closes France’s borders. This is unprecedented, and poses some serious questions for the European Union, which is based to a considerable degree on the principle of open borders. The Schengen Area, the continental EU zone where member states have all agreed to abolish border controls, was already being seriously threatened by the refugee crisis, and Hollande’s decision to close France’s borders will likely have some new repercussions on that front.
Nobody has claimed responsibility for the attacks. ISIS seems to be the popular choice (if you subject yourself to CNN, you’ll hear Wolf Blitzer broadcasting as though this were an established fact). And, I mean, maybe they did this. But it would represent a significant increase in their capabilities. ISIS hasn’t yet managed to pull off an attack of this much sophistication outside of Syria-Iraq, its base of operations, Sinai (maybe), where its strongest affiliate is located, and Libya, Yemen, and Afghanistan, all of which are generally in some state of chaos. Terrorist bombings in Turkey — in Suruç in July and in Ankara last month — have been attributed to ISIS, but neither showed this level of sophistication in terms of coordinating multiple targets with multiple moving parts. Then there was the bombing in Beirut yesterday, probably ISIS but, again, nowhere near this sophisticated.
The most sophisticated possible ISIS attacks outside of those areas are the Bardo Museum shooting, from March, and the Sousse resort shooting, from June, both in Tunisia. But while ISIS claimed responsibility for both of those attacks, Tunisian authorities say otherwise — they say that Bardo was carried out by the Okba Ibn Nafaa Brigade, a group that splintered off from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and Sousse by a guy with ties to Libya’s Ansar al-Sharia, which itself has ties to AQIM. And, not to repeat myself, but even if both of these attacks were perpetrated by ISIS, this Paris attack still seems to be considerably more complex than either of them.
It’s for that reason that some analysts are suggesting a different perpetrator:
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was behind the Charlie Hebdo attack, let’s remember, so they’ve demonstrated that Paris is a viable target for them.
Personally, this reminded me of nothing so much as the 2008 Lashkar-e-Taiba attack on Mumbai — a sophisticated operation involving a series of relatively unsophisticated attacks throughout a large urban center. LeT has no apparent reason to attack Paris, but it does have some historic ties to al-Qaeda in areas like training, so it wouldn’t be out of the question for al-Qaeda/AQAP to have developed plans for an attack like this in collaboration with LeT. But I’m speculating. Hopefully this attack won’t reach the scope of Mumbai, which took four days from start to finish.
UPDATE 2: CNN reporting 153 dead, but that’s still preliminary.
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