When Terror Strikes Analyses and Source Material on the Paris Attack

This article used to be part of our ‘Roundup’ series. This type of article has been discontinued and has now been merged into our Insight articles.

On the evening of Friday the 13th of November, a massacre took place in the heart of Paris. In an act of terror, several gunmen and suicide bombers struck restaurants, concert hall Bataclan and the outsides of a football stadium. To be recorded as one of the worst terrorist attacks in Europe’s history, these events affect families, communities and countries alike. The thoughts of the entire crew of International Perspective are with the people of Paris. 

I wanted to write about what happened as well. But rather than tossing my own opinion onto the already flooded internet, I tried an alternative way of dealing with this situation. Considering the lacking and sometimes false reporting on (social) media, I have created a so called Roundup. The concept is simple: piecing together source material, quotes and analyses, which I believe are worth reading to have a nuanced view on the attack and its aftermath.

This article will continue to be updated as I come across new material worth reading. Do you have an article you would like to share with us? Write in the comment section or e-mail us at . We might even include it in this overview!

Last updated: 19 November 2015, 00:07


Paris attacks: What we know so far

Three teams of gunmen and suicide bombers were involved in the coordinated attacks across Paris late Friday that killed 129 people. Piecing together the other pieces is quite difficult, but a professional overview can be found on France24.

Be sure to ‘watch live’ and stay up to date on new developments.

“Pools of blood filled the floor. Cries of grown men who held their girlfriends dead bodies pierced the small music venue. Futures demolished, families heartbroken. In an instant.”

Isobel Bowdery at Bataclan, source: Facebook

Paris Attack (Politico

Paris, an atrocity foretold

The capital of France was attacked. We are all next.

“What was missing — and this is a part of the horror — was any real sense of surprise.”

POLITICO, Adam Kirsch, 14 November 2015

“It lasted for ten minutes. Ten minutes … ten horrific minutes where everybody was on the
floor covering their head. We heard so many gunshots and the terrorists were very calm, very determined. They reloaded three or four times
their weapons. They didn’t shout anything. They didn’t say anything. They were unmasked and wearing black clothes and they were shooting
at people on the floor, executing them.”

Julien Pierce, source: CNN

Modeled on Mumbai? Why the 2008 India attack is the best way to understand Paris

The Islamic State group, which claimed credit for Paris, has used Mumbai-style multiple attacks in Iraq. They probably hoped that the siege would last longer.

Brookings, Bruce Riedel, 14 November 2015

Beirut Wonders if Some Terror Attacks Mean More Than Others

ISIS is not just a French problem, or, if the ISIS claims to have downed the Russian airliner in Egypt are verified, a Russian problem. It is not just a Lebanese problem. Until there is some recognition that an ISIS attack on one country is an attack on all, ISIS will be everybody’s problem—a problem that won’t be solved.

Time, Aryn Baker, “Beirut Wonders if Some Terror Attacks Mean More Than Others”, 15 November 2015

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Beirut Bombing, 12 Nov
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Paris Attack, 13 Nov

After Paris: War Is Not What It Used To Be

Wars are no longer the business of governments alone. Like what is happening in so many other realms of human activity from hailing a taxi or booking a room to spend the night — war is being disrupted by groups and individuals that combine technologies, new strategies and new forms of organization to drastically alter its nature.

Carnegie, Moisés Naím, 15 November 2015

What Paris’ night of horror means for Europe

What will be most worrying to the authorities is how such a complex plot could have been conceived, apparently without more specific details appearing on their radar screens. If it is true, as early reports suggest, that Western surveillance agencies failed to pick up any of the “chatter” that usually precedes a major operation.

The Economist, 14 November 2015


Statement ISIS - Paris Attak

ISIS’ Big Mistake

If ISIS is becoming more ambitious, the world should be on the alert for more horrific attacks. At the same time, however, everyone should recognize that the shift may prove costly to ISIS, leaving it farther from achieving its ultimate goals in the long term.

Foreign Affairs, Daniel Byman, 15 November 2015

How the Islamic State Declared War on the World

Attacks on civilians, like those we saw in Paris, are designed to force governments to drastically change their policies — to either rapidly deescalate, as President Ronald Reagan did in Lebanon after the bombings of the Marine barracks and U.S. Embassy in 1983, or to overreact with a major display of force.

Foreign Policy, William McCants 16 November 2015


Assessing the Islamic State’s Commitment to Attacking the West

IS appears to have had a decentralized attack strategy based on encouraging sympathiser attacks while not mounting centrally directed operations of their own. There have also been more plots involving only IS sympathisers than plots involving returned foreign fighters.

Perspectives on Terrorism, Thomas Hegghammer and Peter Nesser, 2015

“ISIS will fill the streets of Paris with dead bodies”, he says as the French jihadi shoots a Syrian soldier in the head and kicks his body of a cliff.

“He declared that his ‘message’ is aimed not only to French citzens, but also to the international community and ‘anyone who fights Allah and his prophet’.”

Paraphrased from:
 Daily Mail



Foreign Fighters - Paris Attack

Be Afraid. Be A Little Afraid: The Threat of Terrorism from Western Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq

The United States and Europe already have effective measures in place to greatly reduce the threat of terrorism from jihadist returnees and to limit the scale of any attacks that might occur. Those measures can and should be improved—and, more importantly, adequately resourced. But the standard of success cannot be perfection. If it is, then Western governments are doomed to fail, and, worse, doomed to an overreaction which will waste resources and cause dangerous policy mistakes.

Excerpt from: Brookings, Daniel Byman and Jeremy Shapiro, January 2015

Returning Foreign Fighters: Criminalization or Reintegration?

Western governments—and societies—must not create a self-fulfilling prophecy by necessarily treating all foreign fighters as one and the same.

Brookings, Charles Lister, August 2015

“I don’t want to guide any returned foreign fighters anymore. I believe that anyone who leaves to fight for ISIS, should know that he can never return. The danger of attacks is simply too big in our country.”

Montasser Alde’emeh, English translation from Het Nieuwsblad (NL)


David Van Reybrouck - De Redactie

You fell for it, with open eyes, Monsieur le Président (NL)

Because you gave the terrorists exactly what they were hoping for: a declaration of war. You accepted their invitation to jihad with pleasure. In your attempt to respond decisively, you run the enormous risk of further escalating the spiral of violence.

De Redactie, David Van Reybrouck, “U bent erin getuimeld, met open ogen nog wel, Monsieur le Président”, 15 November 2015 (Dutch original)

Why is France so hated?

[ISIS’] Hatred of France goes beyond its counterterrorism prowess. France is also an aggressive actor in the Middle East, joining the U.S.–led bombing of ISIS and also intervening on its own. In Mali, France was responsible for routing local jihadists who had seized much of the country. At home, France is also proudly secular. As such, its official policies are hostile to public displays of religion like the veiling of women, and satirical magazines like Charlie Hebdo regularly ridicule religion, including Islam. This mix of aggression, critical free speech, and secularism earns France a special place of hatred among the Islamic State and many jihadists.

Excerpt from: Brookings, Daniel L. Byman, “Five things to know about Paris Attack”, 15 November 2015

How Not to Overreact to ISIS

This political reality will put enormous pressure on the government to react quickly and forcefully, to create emergency measures, and to lash out abroad to satisfy the public anger: Essentially, to ignore the lessons of the past.

Slate, Jeremy Shapiro, 16 November 2015

Countering Extremism After the Paris Attacks

Governments must pursue the war of ideas with purpose and significant resources, but stopping extremists from luring our youth means bringing in efforts from outside of government.

Council on Foreign Relations, Farah Pandith, 14 November 2015

After the Paris Attacks: The Open Society and Its Enemies

If intervention in Iraq and Libya didn’t work, then non-intervention in Syria didn’t work either. Both policies had the effect of breeding homegrown Islamic State terrorist cells in several European countries. That is Europe’s biggest threat today: the threat from within.

Carnegie, Judy Dempsey, 16 November 2015

National Gallery London - Paris Attack


Do Syrian Refugees Pose a Terrorism Threat?

The worst thing European countries could do would be to invite in hundreds of thousands of refugees in a fit of sympathy and then lose interest or become hostile, starving them of support and vilifying them politically, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Excerpt from: Lawfare, Daniel Byman, 25 October 2015

Refugees - LawFare Blog

Europe’s response to the Paris attacks is different this time

And some Europeans inevitably began linking the violence to the issue which has dominated their politics for the past six months: the wave of refugees streaming into their continent from the Middle East.

The Economist, 14 November 2015

‘Muslims are fleeing in droves’: ISIS suddenly has a caliphate problem

Aside from a possible brain drain and loss of revenue if there are fewer people to tax as ISIS continues its attempt to seize territory across Iraq and Syria, the refugee exodus from the Middle East could call ISIS’ legitimacy into question.

Business Insider, Pamela Engel, 5 October 2015

The refugees you shamefully blame merely flee what made you tremble tonight.
Except they do it every day.”

GuedGued, source: Twitter

Targeting Europe’s Refugees Is Not the Answer

The sole reason for nesting additional operatives in the refugee flows would be to spark a backlash against Syrian and other refugees as well as the native Muslim populations of Europe.

The Washington Institute, Aaron Y. Zelin,  16 November 2015

ISIL and the illusion of a clash of civilisations

ISIL’s “jihad” has been about territory politically, resources, economically, and, ideologically, its main enemy has been what it regards as errant Muslims who are worse than the “infidel”, in ISIL’s reckoning.

Al Jazeera, Khaled Diab, 16 November 2015

After the Paris attacks, here’s how to think about the relationship between ISIS and Islam

Ultimately, it’s for Muslims to decide whether the Islamic State is being faithful to scripture. For the nonbelievers, it’s enough to recognize that Islamic scripture is contradictory when it comes to violence and to rejoice that most Muslims makes sense of these contradictions in a very different way than ISIS.

The Washington Post
,  William McCants 14 November 2015

Islam, violence and the West

In the present situation, Western governments probably can’t do much to help liberalising theological tendencies within the world of Islam, although they are certainly entitled to stand up for their own ideals of human rights and the rule of law. (For example, they can protest over the flogging and imprisonment of Raif Badawi, the Saudi blogger, without pronouncing on whether his liberal reading of Islam is correct or not.) But first and foremost, they should avoid repeating past mistakes and stop nurturing the most illiberal and violent factions.

Excerpt from: The Economist, 27 June 2015

“The cab ride I just had home was the saddest 25 minutes I’ve experienced from another human being. This Muslim cab driver said I was his 1st customer the past 2 hours tonight because of the Attacks in Paris. People have been scared because of NYC being on high alert. For 25 minutes, I had to tell this stranger, this human being like you & I, that he was not a part of what was happening and how sorry I was people were looking at him with fear or anger.

He cried the whole way to my apartment and it made me cry too. He kept saying, “Allah, my God does not believe in this! People think I’m a part of this and I’m not. Nobody wants to drive with me because they feel unsafe. I can’t even do my job.””

Alex, source: Twitter

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of International Perspective.

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By | 2017-02-03T23:11:49+00:00 November 17th, 2015|Categories: Insight, Roundup|Tags: , , , |0 Comments

About the Author:

Jorn Vennekens
Jorn is a Belgian graduate of History and International Relations & Diplomacy. He focuses on the Middle East, international security and foreign policy analysis.

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