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Paris attacks: Did the French let their guard down?


The Paris attack has shocked the world and now with the investigations underway, various questions are bound to be raised which would range from Intelligence sharing and preparedness of the French forces in their own country.

The writing was on the wall and post the Charlie Hebdo attack, there were two other strikes apart from 6 or more attempts to hit France that were foiled.

Also read: French warplanes pound Islamic State stronghold in Syria

Did the French let their guard down?

This particular attack was probably one of the worst that Europe has witnessed. The other point is the similarity that this attack had with the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.

Both attacks were similar and carried out in the evening, a time when security forces are normally relaxed and tend to let their guard down. Former Research and Analysis Wing officer, V Balachandran says that the similarity to the 26/11 attack is just a coincidence.

The warning

Balachandran says that MI-5 chief Andrew Parker had issued a warning on October 28 on an unprecedented terror threat from "Islamic State and Al-Qaeda fanatics plotting mass casualties".

He had said that his service had thwarted 6 UK terror attacks in the past year and several overseas. He also said that "the threat from jihadis was on a scale he had never seen in his 32-year career".

In fact this was the third public warning from Andrew Parker, the earlier ones being on January 9 and September 17.

Considering the close intelligence cooperation between European powers, it is highly unlikely that this intelligence was not passed on to the French.

New York Times (Nov 14) quoted an American security official saying that "there was no immediate indication that there had been suspicious chatter or other warning signs before the attack".

Also read: Paris attack: India has to watch out for ISIS returnees and Wahabi preachers

26/11 style just a co-incidence

In Paris, terrorists had used AK-47, grenades and bombs like the 26/11 attackers. Both attacks were in the evening. But this might be just a coincidence. After all one can effect the maximum surprise in the evening when the victims and security officials are in a relaxed mood, office goers returning home or customers attending dinners or watching cultural events.

This common methodology by terrorists does not mean that there were any connections between those involved in 26/11 and Paris attackers, Balachandran also adds.

On 13th there were 6 attacks in Paris at 3 places or nearby starting with 2 explosions at Stade (Stadium) de France at 2030 pm. Some of the attacks were at the same spots, unlike in Mumbai.

In Mumbai too there were 6 distinct attacks if we include Cama Hospital as separate from the CST (Train junction) killing.

The first Mumbai attack was at Leopold Café at 21:30hrs. The second incident in Paris was at 21:30 pm at "Petit Cambodge" restaurant five miles away from Stade de France.

The second incident in Mumbai was at 2140 onwards at Taj Palace adjacent to Leopold café. The next attack in Paris was by 10pm at Bataclan theatre, south of the restaurant.

The theatre was holding a show of American rock band " Eagles of Death Metal". Here several people were held as hostages. Meanwhile 2 suicide attacks were reported from the Stadium. By midnight the police said that nearly 100 people were dead in the Bataclan theatre. The casualties started rising rapidly.

Did the French learn from Charlie Hebdo?

How did the French authorities falter again after the surprise Charlie Hebdo attack on 7 Jan 2015?That was a public challenge that determined terrorists could kill their victims with impunity even if they were under police protection.

The second message they conveyed in January was that they could still do the killing even if they were under watch by crime and intelligence agencies.

This time it was the usual random killing like 26/11. It might have been revenge against renewed French attacks on ISIS.

Only last week they had attacked an oil well in Syria operated by ISIS. On October 8 they did a targeted attack in Raqqa to eliminate Salim Benghalim, a French national fighting for ISIS.

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