Paris attacked again | The World Weekly
European politicians and intelligence officials have long warned about the possibility of a ‘Mumbai-style’ marauding city attack, but the assault on Paris on November 13 still left France, and the world, reeling. In the deadliest act of terror on Western soil since the Madrid bombings in 2004, and the greatest loss of life in Paris since World War II, Islamic State (IS) militants killed at least 129 people and injured more than 350 others.
It was the bloodiest stain on an annus horribilis for France that began with the Charlie Hebdo shootings, which left 17 people dead and have been followed by a series of either smaller or thwarted attacks. They have included the beheading in June of Herve Cornara, the manager of a transport firm in the southeast of the country, by a militant Islamist employee, and a foiled mass-shooting on a high-speed Thalys train from Amsterdam to Paris in August.
Coming hot on the heels of bombings in Beirut and Ankara and, in all likelihood, on a Russian plane in Egypt, the assault on multiple targets in Paris was the latest and by far the most sophisticated in a string of recent IS attacks on soft, civilian targets. The ability to launch a complex assault at the heart of a Western capital shocked even seasoned commentators on the jihadi group. “Friday’s Paris assaults mark a new and frightening watershed in the steady expansion of attacks attributed to or claimed by the so-called Islamic State,” wrote Frank Gardner, the BBC’s security correspondent, who was himself paralysed from the waist down in a 2004 terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia.
A dark night in the City of Light
The nightmare began at 9.20pm outside the Stade de France when, having been barred from entering the stadium, a man backed away from security personnel and detonated his suicide belt, killing himself and a passer-by. The blast reverberated around the stadium, where 80,000 people, including President Francois Hollande, were watching the national football team play Germany.
When a second suicide bomb detonated outside the stadium 10 minutes later, the president was rushed to safety, but fans were unaware of what had caused the two explosions. “They were very loud but we just assumed it was some kind of powerful firecrackers after some initial worries,” Antoine Decas, a 24-year-old banker who was at the match, told The World Weekly. “At half-time everything was almost forgotten, following the first French goal and even a third blast (less powerful this time) did not dampen spirits.”
The second bomb exploded just outside another stadium entrance, the third in a McDonald’s outlet a little further away; this time only the bombers were killed.
With phone calls, text messages and the Internet blocked inside the stadium, alarm-bells only began to ring when spectators filed out, realised several gates were closed and saw they had numerous missed calls from family and friends. “At the same time, for unknown reasons, a panicking crowd was running back to the Stade de France,” Mr. Decas said. “We took cover to avoid being crushed in the stampede. A terrifying moment. People were saying that gunshots had been heard but it appeared that it was nothing in the end.”
Meanwhile, horrific events were unfolding less than 10km away in the northeast of the city centre. At 9.25pm, three gunmen arrived in a black Seat car at the Rue Alibert in the 10th district and opened fire on Le Carillon bar. “People dropped to the ground,” Ben Grant, who was at the back of the bar with his wife, told the BBC. “We put a table over our heads to protect us.” One of the attackers then crossed the road and began shooting at the Le Petit Cambodge restaurant. Over 100 bullets were sprayed at the two establishments, killing 15 people and leaving 15 severely injured.
“We heard what sounded like a crackling metal curtain being pulled down,” Heloise Delegue, a French artist who was eating at a restaurant just down the road, told The World Weekly. “It lasted for a while and everybody looked out the window. Nobody saw anything so we kept on having dinner. It’s only 15 minutes later when going for a cigarette that a man walked towards me and my friends telling us ‘there are dead people right there on the floor’.”
Within seconds, Ms. Delegue said, she was “petrified with terror”. She left the restaurant through a backdoor and entered an apartment block, where she sat on the stairs before a woman called Francoise invited her into her flat. “We turned on the TV and found out about the tragedy. We spent the night there and even the next day. We couldn’t leave her apartment. It felt like a nest of warmth within the horrors… We will never forget Francoise’s hospitality.”
Similar acts of solidarity were taking place across the city. As the attacks continued, the hashtag #PorteOuverte (‘open door’) spread on social media as Parisians offered shelter to people out on the streets.
Just over five minutes after attacking Le Petit Cambodge, the same gunmen killed five people at the Cafe Bonne Biere and La Casa Nostra pizzeria in the Rue de La Fontaine au Roi, a few streets to the south of the first shooting. Then, at 9.36pm, they shot dead 19 people at La Belle Equipe, a bar in the Rue de Charonne, in the 11th district. At 9.40pm, one of the men blew himself up at Le Comptoir Voltaire restaurant on the Boulevard Voltaire, severely injuring one person.
Almost simultaneously, a third group of three militants stormed the 19th-century Bataclan concert hall, on the same boulevard, and began firing calmly and indiscriminately into the crowd, who had been watching the Eagles of Death Metal rock band. This would become by far the most deadly attack of the night.
“At first, we thought it was part of the show but we quickly understood,” Pierre Janaszak, a radio presenter, told Agence France Presse. “They didn’t stop firing. There was blood everywhere, corpses everywhere. We heard screaming. Everyone was trying to flee.”
Shortly before midnight, Mr. Hollande addressed the nation, declaring a national state of emergency.
By now, the eyes of the world’s media were fixed on Paris. Those who had escaped the hall through a back exit described appalling scenes, confirmed by some people trapped inside using social media to plead to the outside world for help. “I’m still in the Bataclan, 1st floor,” one tweeted. “I’m heavily wounded. Please police you have to launch an assault, there are still people alive here but they are killing them one by one.” One survivor described how a young girl in her early twenties stood up in front of one of the attackers and said “I beg you, I beg you, I beg you” only to be shot in the head.
When police commandos stormed the building at 12.20am, shooting dead one militant and prompting the other two to detonate suicide belts, the scale of the massacre became apparent. Eighty-nine people had been killed within the hall and at least 99 critically injured.
The commandos were not allowed to speak directly to the media, but in the following days they relayed their ordeal through Nicolas Comte, a Police Union spokesman. “At first, they thought they were walking in water,” he said. “Then they realised it was blood.” Seeing help was at hand, desperately injured music fans clawed at them and begged for help, but first they had a job to do. Having neutralised the attackers, they looked down at the floor and saw scores of dead and maimed bodies. “We really saw hell tonight,” several officers told Mr. Comte.
The immediate emergency was over, but confusion reigned. It was unclear how many people had died, how many terrorists were involved, whether any were still at large, and where the attacks had taken place. It was reported, wrongly, that shots were fired at the Pompidou and Louvre art galleries and that a revenge arson attack had taken place at the ‘Jungle’ migrant camp in Calais.
Police, ambulances and soldiers swarmed round the venues of the attacks, but elsewhere the streets had rapidly emptied as Parisians heeded official instructions to remain inside. A British woman who emerged just after midnight from a cinema in Montparnasse, in the south of the city centre, told The World Weekly she found “the whole city eerily empty”.
Immediately after the attacks, IS members and sympathisers celebrated on Twitter. On Saturday morning, the group released statements in Arabic and French saying the attacks were long-planned and chosen to coincide with a football match between “two crusader countries”. It is possible they were deliberately conducted on ‘Friday 13th’, about which France is very superstitious. IS, in the past, has opportunistically claimed attacks it did not perpetrate, but Mr. Hollande confirmed it was to blame and described the violence as an “act of war”.
According to the French authorities, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a 27-year-old Belgian member of IS, probably masterminded the attacks. Of Moroccan descent, he grew up in the Molenbeek suburb of Brussels, long known to be a hotbed of militant jihadis.
The French radio station RTL described him in 2014 as “one of the most active IS executioners in Syria”, where he went to join the group’s forces in 2013. Footage shows him loading a pickup truck and trailer with a mound of bloodied corpses. Grinning, he told the camera: “Before, we towed jet skis, motorcycles, quad bikes, big trailers filled with gifts for vacation in Morocco. Now, thank God, following God’s path, we’re towing apostates.”
Earlier this year, Mr. Abaaoud was sentenced in absentia to 20 years’ imprisonment by a Belgian court for running one of the country’s largest jihadi networks. In an interview with Dibaq, IS’ English-language online magazine, he said he had returned to Belgium in 2014, and arranged a safehouse and weapons before returning to Syria unhindered. Intelligence officials have also linked him with the failed Thalys train shooting and a thwarted attack on a church in Villejuif, south of Paris, this April.
Initially, it was thought Mr. Abaaoud orchestrated this week’s massacre from Syria, but he was shot dead in the early hours of Wednesday morning during a huge raid on a flat in the Saint Denis suburb of Paris, launched after police learned he could be hiding there. Five thousand bullets were fired during the seven-hour siege and it took over a day to identify his body, so torn apart were his remains with bullets and shrapnel. Mr. Abaaoud's cousin, Hasna Aitboulahcen, blew herself up in the flat, collapsing the floor and killing a police dog called Diesel. The hashtags #jesuischien ('I am dog') and #jesuisDiesel soon went viral.
The French authorities have named six of the nine attackers and five of the seven who died.
The Stade de France
Of the three suicide bombers at the Stade de France, one remains unidentified. Another was 20-year-old Bilal Hadfi, described to the Middle East Eye by investigation insiders as a French national who had been living in Belgium.
In a potentially explosive revelation, the body of the third stadium bomber was found along with a Syrian passport bearing the name Ahmad al-Mohammad, born in 1990 and from Idlib in northwest Syria. The man slipped into Europe, hidden in a stream of refugees and migrants from the Middle East, last month. Fingerprints on the passport match those on his body and were recorded along with the same passport when he landed on the Greek island of Leros at the beginning of October. A few days later, the document was again registered when he entered Serbia, taking the well-trodden migration route from Greece to northern Europe through the Balkans.
The man’s true name, age and nationality are unknown, since the French judiciary says the passport was probably falsified in Turkey. Der Spiegel’s Jorg Diehl and Anna Reimann speculate that IS might have “wanted the passport to be found”. This, they suggest, would have played into the group’s hands in two ways: by stoking fears about migration, “it would further divide European society”; and it would discredit refugees whom IS views as “traitors fleeing the country rather than joining Islamic State for the establishment of a caliphate”.
Bars and restaurants
The second group of attackers contained Brahim Abdeslam, who later blew himself up in Le Comptoir Voltaire, his brother, Salah, and an unidentified third individual who could still be at large. The Seat car they used was found on Sunday in a Paris suburb with Kalashnikov rifles inside.
Salah, whom two Belgian men picked up in Paris after receiving a phone call from him at around 2am on Saturday, was stopped hours later by police near the Belgian border. After questioning him and checking his ID, they let him go. Despite a massive manhunt, he is yet to be found.
Like Mr. Abaaoud, the brothers were from Molenbeek and seem to have been heavily involved in organising the attacks. Brahim is thought to have rented the Seat in Belgium, while Salah hired the VW Polo used by the Bataclan attackers. It contained parking tickets from Molenbeek, the clue that first sent investigators scurrying to Brussels. He is also believed to have rented a hotel room in the eastern suburb of Alfortville where syringes, possibly used for making bombs, were found.
Twenty-nine-year-old Omar Ismail Mostefai, who blew himself up inside the concert hall when police entered the building, was the first attacker to be named, having been identified by his severed finger. Described by the Associated Press as “tall, quiet and conservatively dressed”, he was born in Courcouronnes, south of Paris, and lived with his parents in the French cathedral city of Chartres, where he appears to have aroused little suspicion among neighbours, one of whom described his family as “very nice”. He was, however, seen as a possible threat by the security services, which put him under surveillance for suspected radicalisation in 2010. The French police believe he travelled to Syria at some point in the past two years.
The other man who detonated a suicide belt inside the Bataclan was 28-year-old Samy Amimour, from Saint Denis. He had been under investigation since October 2012 on suspicion of terrorist activity related to a planned trip to Yemen, and was the subject of an international arrest warrant since late 2013. Despite this, he managed to reach Syria, where he joined IS, in 2014. Last December, his father told the French daily Le Monde that he had travelled there, in vain, to persuade his son to come home.
The Bataclan attacker shot by police is yet to be identified.
A country in the crosshairs
The attacks on Ankara, the Russian airliner, Beirut and Paris mark a shift in IS tactics away from state-building in the Middle East alone and towards bloodletting on enemy turf. As recently as the late summer, a review by the German Interior Ministry stated that IS’ top priority was the “consolidation of existing spheres of influence” in Syria and Iraq, reducing its “operational capacity” for “coordinating international attacks in Western countries”. “We have to prepare for a new situation,” a high-ranking security official in Berlin told Der Spiegel this week.
Given this strategic shift, IS would no doubt like to attack as many Western targets as possible. “This attack is the first of the storm and a warning to those who wish to learn,” it claimed on Saturday. In a video released on Monday, it vowed to strike other European countries as well as “America at its centre in Washington”.
France is particularly vulnerable. Paris is a trophy target, while the country has Europe’s largest Muslim population, many of whom live in the ‘banlieues’, where crime and unemployment rates are high, that surround largely rich, ‘white’ city centres. “The French Muslim community is not well integrated - and, being mainly of North African origin, feels more involved in the conflicts in the Arab world than the South Asians in Britain or Turks in Germany,” John Sawers, head of British foreign intelligence from 2009 to 2014, wrote this week.
Add widespread racial discrimination and the principle of state secularism actively pursued by successive governments, not least in banning the hijab, and it is apparent why many French Muslims feel alienated and some fall prey to extremists.
France is the biggest European exporter of jihadis to IS forces in Iraq and Syria, providing up to 1,600 of its estimated 5,000 European fighters, and many of the country's recent terrorists have been home-grown: Said and Cherif Kouachi, the Charlie Hebdo gunmen, grew up in France, as did two of Friday’s attackers.
With militant jihadis coming and going through the borderless Schengen Area, it is difficult for France to monitor people and arms entering the country. At least five of the attackers had returned after fighting for IS in the Middle East and authorities had no idea Mr. Abaaoud was in Europe, let alone Paris, until four days after the attacks. “The fact the borders of France now are extended to some Greek island or Italian islands in the Mediterranean is a disaster,” Pierre Brochand, the head of French foreign intelligence from 2002 to 2006, said this week. “From a strictly security point of view, it is much better to control your own border.”
Mr. Hollande may also have pinned a bigger target on France’s back by taking tough military action against militant jihadis in the Middle East and Africa. He joined the US-led air war against IS in Syria in September and intervened decisively against al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in Mali in 2013. A fortnight ago, the leader of an AQIM affiliate urged his followers to strike France as revenge for its presence in the region.
“What you are doing in Syria, you are going to pay for it now,” one of the Bataclan attackers shouted inside the hall.
A preventable catastrophe?
“From any standpoint it’s an intelligence failure, a massive intelligence failure,” Mr. Brochand said, when asked about the attacks. “But what I think is there will always be failure because these kinds of attacks are to a certain extent unstoppable. We could prevent a lot of them but not all of them. In an open society like ours, I think it’s impossible.” Only last month, Patrick Calvar, head of the DGSI, France’s internal security agency, warned he could not thwart every jihadi.
Nevertheless, many analysts cannot fathom why France did not detect this, of all plots. Unlike the Charlie Hebdo shootings, Friday’s was a sophisticated attack involving numerous IS operatives, at least two of whom were known to the French security services. The probable mastermind was a well-known IS figure and Turkish officials warned France about Mr. Mostefai, one of the Bataclan attackers, three times in the past year.
As the spotlight of the investigation swung to Brussels, the Belgian security services also came under intense scrutiny. Hans Bonte, a member of Parliament, said he “isn’t surprised at all” that the violence was soon linked to Molenbeek. He blames a lack of monitoring of radicalised Muslims and the fragmentation of Belgian policing. Brussels has 1.2 million inhabitants but six different police agencies, answerable to 19 municipal mayors who are often political rivals. “It’s unbelievable that something like this exists in Europe’s capital,” he said.
Perhaps the biggest challenge facing Europe as it tries to foil acts of terror is the poor communication of intelligence between countries. European police authorities do not use common databases, they transfer information by fax or email, and political disagreements often impede reform.
“Intelligence sharing is really at the heart of the challenge in Europe,” a senior Brussels-based diplomat told the Financial Times this week. “There has been a lot of work, particularly after Charlie Hebdo, but it has stalled. We have open borders but not open information. It’s not possible for that to continue.”
To the barricades
If security was considered lax before the attacks, Mr. Hollande made sure it was anything but in the days that followed. When he decreed a national state of emergency on Friday night, it was only the fifth time a French president had done so since that power was codified during the Algerian war in 1955.
The decree, designed to be used in “cases of imminent danger resulting from serious breaches of public order, or in case of events threatening… public disaster”, grants the authorities far-reaching powers, including the right to set curfews, ban mass gatherings, enforce house arrests, and search homes, public spaces and vehicles without the need for a warrant issued by a judge. It allowed the government to mobilise 115,000 security personnel and the police to launch over 400 raids against suspected militant Islamists in less than a week, 168 of them on Sunday night alone.
For President Hollande, though, this arsenal of crisis powers is not large enough. Responding in part to calls from leading public figures, including his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy, to tighten security, in a rare address to both houses of Parliament on Monday he asked lawmakers to extend the state of emergency for three months and to grant the state new counter-terror powers. These included the ability to “more rapidly expel foreigners who represent a particularly grave threat to public order” and to monitor people on watch lists more closely. Parliament overwhelmingly approved the measures on Thursday. Mr. Hollande sought to allay fears they could breach key rights and freedoms, saying he would convene the Council of State, one of France’s highest courts, as a safeguard.
Mr. Hollande also requested help from fellow EU member states, invoking a previously unused clause of the bloc’s Lisbon Treaty to do so. Minutes later, the union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, tweeted in French: “France has asked the EU for help and assistance. And today the whole of Europe responds as one: yes.”
France wasn’t the only country on high alert this week. On Tuesday, a football match between Germany and the Netherlands was cancelled at short notice because of what the Hanover Police described as a “concrete security threat” and “plans for some kind of explosion”. On Wednesday, two men were arrested at Copenhagen Airport for joking about a bomb - remarks that triggered an evacuation of the terminal. George Osborne, the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced a doubling of the country’s investment in online security to £1.9 billion ($2.9 billion) and said British spies would ramp up their cyber-attacks on IS.
A global fight
In the wake of the attacks, there were signs of greater unity in the global fight against terrorism. At the end of the G20 summit in Turkey on Monday, the world’s most powerful leaders said that fight was one of their top priorities. “We reiterate our resolve to work together to prevent and suppress terrorist acts through increased international solidarity and cooperation,” they declared in a joint statement. With all five permanent members now having suffered at their hands, a UN Security Council resolution to declare war on the jihadis and eradicate IS is on the cards.
Meanwhile, an unlikely French-Russian alliance seems to be emerging. As France tightened its defences, it launched a ferocious offensive against IS. After promising a “merciless” response, President Hollande ordered French warplanes to pound Raqqa, the group’s Syrian stronghold. “This is where we must hit Daesh, in its lifeblood," the French Minister of Defence Jean-Yves Le Drian said, using the pejorative Arabic acronym for IS.
Russia also ramped up its bombardment on the group in Syria after confirming on Tuesday that the Sinai plane was downed by a terrorist-planted bomb. President Vladimir Putin vowed to “punish” those responsible and said his country’s air war in Syria “must be intensified in such a way that the criminals understand that retribution is inevitable”.
Relations between the two countries deteriorated after Russia’s annexation of Crimea last year but, with their aims now aligned, there are signs of a rapprochement. Mr. Putin ordered Russian armed forces to cooperate with French “allies” in a joint Syrian campaign, while Mr. Hollande announced he would meet his opposite number with a view to building “a union of all those who truly want to fight against this terrorist army as part of one big coalition”.
Fuel on the migration fire
As world leaders united against IS, Europe appeared more divided than ever over migration. For right-wing parties, the attacks confirmed their worst fears about the unprecedented influx of people into the continent. Poland’s new government announced it was withdrawing from the EU’s controversial plan to relocate 160,000 refugees from Italy and Greece elsewhere in the bloc. Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico said, with grim triumph, that he had warned fellow European leaders of the “enormous security risks linked to migration. Hopefully, some people will open their eyes now.”
In France, National Front leader Marine Le Pen took care to join the nation’s mourning after having been criticised for her uncensored attack on the government following Charlie Hebdo, but nevertheless demanded a crackdown on Islamists and declared “France and the French are no longer safe”. The party was already expected to make major gains in next month’s regional elections and Ms. Le Pen is projected to win the first round of voting in the 2017 presidential election. Many commentators expect her repeated equation of migration with security threats will now gain even greater traction.
While some politicians called for fortress Europe to lift its drawbridge, others urged people not to conflate refugees with terrorists. “We should not mix the different categories of people coming to Europe,” said European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who designed the relocation scheme. “Those who organised these attacks and those that perpetrated them are exactly those that the refugees are fleeing and not the opposite.” At the G20, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama echoed this sentiment.
Most significantly, Mr. Hollande said France would abide by its commitment to welcome 30,000 refugees over the next two years. “Some people say the tragic events of the last few days have sown doubts in their minds,” he noted, but he countered that helping refugees was a “humanitarian duty” to be carried out along with “our duty to protect our people. We have to reinforce our borders while remaining true to our values.”
The attacks also put the Schengen Agreement under greater strain than ever before. Drafted in 1985 and brought into force a decade later, it is one of the pillars of European integration and was until recently one of its most popular achievements. As the refugee crisis mounted over the summer and border controls and fences sprung up across the continent, cracks emerged, into which the Paris attacks drove a wedge.
Senior intelligence officials questioned the wisdom of visa-free travel within Europe, with Ronald K. Noble, the secretary general of Interpol from 2000 to 2014, describing it as “a sign welcoming terrorists to Europe”. Until passports are systematically screened at “every single entry point” to the Area, he argued this week, “the 26 Schengen countries must suspend their open-border arrangement and close this passport-free travel zone throughout Europe”.
Schengen has not yet crumbled. During the attacks, Mr. Hollande announced the French borders had been closed, but this turned out not to be true, and temporary suspensions of the agreement are in any case permitted in exceptional circumstances. Moreover, EU interior ministers are expected to approve French demands for more stringent passport checks on the Area’s external border on Friday.
Nevertheless, Chris Bickerton, a lecturer on European politics at the University of Cambridge, said this week he is “pretty pessimistic about the possibility of Schengen surviving" and that “a lot in people in Brussels feel it’s the beginning of the end."
‘Still on its feet’
In the days following the attacks, people across France took to the streets to grieve for their lost family, friends and compatriots. Three days of national mourning were declared, during which countless candle-lit vigils took place.
At midday on Monday, the nation fell silent for a minute of remembrance, at the end of which 300 people in the Place de la Republique burst into applause. Outside the Bataclan, another crowd gathered in front of a floral shrine while Anne Gouverneur, a violinist who had often performed at the hall, played.
As investigators picked apart the wreckage inside, the administrators of the venue released a statement. “Dear friends,” it said. “No word is enough to express the magnitude of our grief. Our thoughts go to the victims, the injured and their loved ones. There are many of you who want to come back to the Bataclan, but unfortunately the authorities still need to work there. We will let you know as soon as it is possible to gather at the hall. We thank you for your support which has touched us profoundly. The Bataclan.”
Later on Monday, the Eiffel Tower was illuminated with the French Tricolore, symbolising the founding principles of the republic: liberté, égalité and fraternité (freedom, equality and fraternity).
Some victims vowed not to descend to the level of the terrorists. In a statement that gained widespread publicity, Antoine Leiris, a journalist whose wife Muyal died at the Bataclan, wrote on Facebook: “On Friday evening you stole the life of an exceptional person, the love of my life, the mother of my son, but you will not have my hatred. I don’t know who you are and I don’t want to know, you are dead souls… So no, I will not give you the satisfaction of hating you. You want it, but to respond to hatred with anger would be to give in to the same ignorance that made you what you are.”
After the Charlie Hebdo shootings, many French people, especially Muslims, were put in the awkward position of wanting to condemn the attacks but not wanting to endorse the magazine that had pilloried their religion. There was no such divide this time. Two days after the attacks, a dozen imams gathered in front of the Bataclan to sing 'La Marseillaise', the French national anthem.
Elsewhere, people expressed their solidarity with Paris and France. Cities around the world illuminated their landmarks with the Tricolore. Murtala, a resident of the northern Nigerian city of Kano, often targeted by Boko Haram, wrote on social media that the Paris attacks “showed terrorism has spread all over the world and the time has come for all nations to combat it effectively”.
When the French football team played England on Tuesday at Wembley, London’s equivalent of the Stade de France, all 70,000 spectators sang La Marseillaise. Ahead of the game, Olivier Gombert from Lille told the Guardian: “It’s very important for us that the English will sing the national anthem tonight. The people are crying for the events that happened on Friday, but tonight it’s a match for humanity. We are not afraid.”
Some even promised to take the fight to IS. Anonymous, the hacking activist group, says it has taken down 5,500 Twitter accounts belonging to IS since waging “total war” on the group on Monday.
Amid this outpouring of emotion, many have criticised the slight level of attention that almost daily attacks in parts of Africa and the Middle East receive by comparison. Godwill, a Facebook user writing in Kiswahili, wrote: “Syria has suffered attacks which killed thousands, go to Gaza, thousands of people have been killed there. Look at al-Shabaab in Somalia, they are killing thousands there. Why didn’t Germany have the flag at half mast in favour of Syria, Somalia or Gaza?”
This debate was especially pronounced given the bombing in Beirut that took place the day before the Paris attacks, and underscored by the suicide bombing in Yola, Nigeria, that killed 32 people.
The disparity in coverage reflects the daily occurrence of extreme violence in these parts of the world. Within France, it is rare, and this week many Parisians expressed a desire to resume their normal, peaceful lives. “Most people are saying we’re not going to give in and change our lifestyles because of a bunch of zealots,” Mr. Decas said. The city’s mayor, Anne Hidalgo, declared it was “still on its feet”.
As Stephen M. Walt, professor of international relations at Harvard, argues, such defiance is essential. “For all its current troubles, Europe today is richer, freer, safer, more open and more stable than it has been since any other time in its history, and those achievements must not be surrendered.”