Hybrid terrorism strikes Paris (with V. Dittmar)

A new tactical profile emerges in French Terror attacks.

The attacks denote hybrid techniques which illustrate a levelling up in the nature of the terrorist threat states face.
The actions of the attackers cannot be easily placed into a framework for analysis, using existing tactical identifiers.

The style and techniques of the attacks in France suggest that the multiple incidents are coordinated. The seven simultaneous and co-ordinated attacks were well planned and had significant infrastructure behind it, funding it and supporting it.

It suggests a large network with the ability to manage complex co-ordination for obtaining weapons, explosive devices, transport and logistics required for up to six shootings in separate areas and two reported suicide detonations. The hostage taking which occurred inside the BATACLAN club/concert hall is not a technique which is associated with ISIS outside of its areas of operation but it is a technique which we associate with Al qaeda. The venues were civilian but the attacks were military in nature and precision.

The hostage takers were all described as young. The shooters were calm and focused and did not speak except at one location. This suggests that they have been trained and are familiar with the weaponry, as well as able to deal with adrenalin, noise and confusion. It suggests familiarity with active , hostile, conflict environments or war zones. The nature of the events, however suggest that this is the work of trained and prepared sympathisers or members of a secondary group or individuals who have received training by either ISIS or AQ affiliate and may not be part of one of those formal groups. It is expected that a claim for the attacks would be made by one of the two groups already. This has not happened to date.

The implications for policing and counter terrorism are immense. The new knowledge acquired as a result of the Snowden leaks have been put to good use by the terrorists. There was no indication that a military type unit was planning an attack of this magnitude. The terrorists have clearly developed abilities to work around traditional surveillance and monitoring and security services are effectively working in the dark.

The hybridity of techniques used, in particular, suggests an element of ‘ mix and match. ‘ ISIS has not yet claimed the attack as they have done with previous attacks with which they were involved. It is not thought AQ has the infrastructure to mount such a large scale attack in Europe and all these factors point to an evolution in terrorist tactics to this type of hybrid attack which combines the lethality of a suicide attack with active shooters and hostage taking. This hydridity does bear the hallmark of ISIS however other elements, such as the simultaneous co-ordinated nature of the attack suggest Aq training.

There appears to be no consideration of survivability on the part of the hostage takers and shooters, implying that this is not a political act concerned with domestic matters within the borders of France and for which negotiation might bring resolution. Rather this appears to be an act which is focused on issues external to the borders of France and for which no negotiation is required or desired.

Since the Charlie Hebdo shootings in January earlier this year, France has extended its airstrikes over Iraq in the fight against ISIS as an act of self-defence, according to the Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who has also emphasised the importance of the participation of its country in the war on terror. In this year, French fighter jets have carried out 271 airstrikes in 1,285 missions across Iraq and on the 27th of September, they carried out the first set of airstrikes in Syria. Moreover, last Thursday 5th of November, France announced that it would send its largest warship to join the operations in the Middle East. While the government continues engaging in the conflict, it is estimated that around 1,400 French citizens have travelled to Syria to join the Islamic State as foreign fighters.

It is unlikely that there will be many survivors in the Bataclan given the nature of the incident and the calmness of the attackers, as reported by eye witnesses. Over 45 people have been reported dead in the multiple attacks in the French capital. There are significant numbers who have been injured. According to police reports, two suicide bombers detonated devices near a stadium where the president was located. This club is just a few miles away from the Charlie Hebdo offices, according to the Hufftington Post.
France has become the centre of multiple terror attacks this year. Since the Charlie Hebdo shootings in January, there have been incidents throughout the year, mostly linked to Islamic extremism.

Today’s attacks will definitely have an influence on the opinion of the French society regarding the current refugee crisis and the country’s possible intake of more refugees. Anti-islamic sentiments have been rising since the terror attacks in January as not only extreme Islam, but the religion itself is seen as a threat to what is considered “French values” of liberty.
The intake of more migrants and refugees could be perceived by the society as an increase in the threat to the security and stability of the country.

The US and other European capitals must now factor in the capacity to deal with entities which can conduct multiple simultaneous attacks of this magnitude. This is unprecedented.

Candyce Kelshall

About Candyce Kelshall

Doctoral candidate and BUCSIS Research Fellow. Independent advisor to British Transport police and Metropolitan Police. Candyce is the author of two books on Civil /military relations. "Armed Forces and Government" and "Mutiny and Revolution: Military pressure Groups"
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