Even though Islamic State’s ghastly attack in Paris this weekend reigned over headlines across the world, those were not the only places that the notorious terrorist organization targeted between November 12 and 14, before being bombed by France in retaliation. Over a span of 36 hours, Islamic State dared to orchestrate a series of deadly attacks in the capital cities of Lebanon, Iraq and France, before taking to social media to claim responsibility for the lives of hundreds of innocent people and warn that this is only “the first of the storm.”
After a bloody wave of mass shootings and suicide bombings left more than 130 people dead and several others injured and traumatized, the public prosecutor for Paris confirmed on Saturday that three coordinated teams of jihadi gunmen were responsible for the attacks that were carried out at six different venues across the city. François Molins told the media that as many as 132 people had been killed and 352 injured, including 90 victims who were rushed to intensive care units, after the attacks took place at Stade de France, a concert hall and a string of packed cafes and bars on Friday night.
The following day, Islamic State claimed responsibility for the brutalities, which French President François Hollande condemned as a “cowardly act of war” that must be countered “mercilessly.”
“It has been prepared, organized and planned from outside the country by Islamic State, but with help from inside,” he said, “We will be merciless toward the barbarians of Islamic State group. Faced with war, the country must take appropriate action … These were attacks against France, against the values that we defend everywhere in the world, against what we are: a free country that means something to the whole planet.”
Calling for unity and courage, Hollande said that France would observe three days of official mourning.
As police officials worked towards identifying the seven radicals, all of whom reportedly died during their respective attacks, Molins confirmed that at least one of the militants was a French national. He added that the three separate teams all wore identical suicide bomb vests, carried a charge of TATP (triacetone triperoxide) fitted with batteries and a detonator and also carried Kalashnikov-style automatic rifles.
Islamic State confirmed that it had dispatched eight jihadis, making it possible that one of the assailants might still be on the run, wearing suicide bomb vests and carrying machine guns, to different venues across Paris on Friday night to carry out the “blessed attack on … crusader France.” According to the terrorist organization, the “carefully selected” sites and coordinated approach of the attackers was intended to prove to the French administration that the country would continue to be one of its primary targets if it did not retract its current foreign policies.
“France and those who follow her voice must know that they remain the main target of Islamic State and that they will continue to smell the odour of death for having led the crusade, for having boasted of fighting Islam in France and striking Muslims in the caliphate with their planes,” the terrorist organization said in a statement.
— Terrormonitor.org (@Terror_Monitor) November 14, 2015
The claim was made in Arabic as well as French, before supporters of Islamic State started to circulate the statement in various other languages. The statement not only bore the organization’s logo but also resembled its previous statements. Several supporters of Islamic State went on to congratulate the terrorist organization for successfully carrying out the deadly attacks, against the hashtag #ParisIsBurning.
Italian, Belgian, Swedish and Romanian governments said that their citizens were among those killed, while at least one American and a Briton were also reported dead. Panic-stricken relatives and friends of victims rushed to social media, using the hashtag #rechercheParis to seek information about those missing. Others used the hashtag #PorteOuverte to offer help and shelter to those affected and in need.
Under the first national state of emergency that was declared in France since 1961, an additional 1,500 soldiers were deployed to reinforce police officials in the capital city, said Hollande’s office. All sports events and music concerts that were expected to take place in Paris on Saturday were called off, with all major shops, departmental stores, museums and other tourist spots, including the Eiffel Tower, Disneyland and Louvre, remaining shut. Many metro stations were closed as well.
Paris witnessed the horrifying atrocities on Friday night despite and possibly because France, as part of a United States-led coalition, has been carrying out airstrikes on Islamic State strongholds across Iraq and Syria, thus being on high alert at all times for probable terrorist attacks. This notion was substantiated as soon as the terrorist organization released an undated video on Saturday, urging all Muslims to continue attacking France. In the video, Al-Hayat Media Centre, Islamic State’s foreign media arm, was seen filming a group of militants, apparently all French citizens sitting cross-legged at an undisclosed location, burning their passports.
“As long as you keep bombing you will not live in peace. You will even fear travelling to the market,” said one of the militants, who identified himself as “Abu Maryam the Frenchman” … “Indeed, we have been ordered to fight the infidel wherever we find him. What are we waiting for? Know that jihad in this time is obligatory on all.”
Another militant, identified as “Abu Salman the Frenchman,” said, “There are weapons and cars available and targets ready to be hit. Even poison is available, so poison the water and food of at least one of the enemies of Allah … Terrorize them and do not allow them to sleep due to fear and horror.”
A third militant, identified as “Abu Osama the Frenchman,” appealed to Muslims living in France, saying, “Jihad is the path of Allah. You strengthen their economy and pay taxes, which they use to fight us, and kill our sister, our women and our children … Are you not embarrassed? Repent to your Lord and come join us. Because a day may come when the borders will be closed and you will be left only with tears and regret.”
Foreigners fighting on behalf of Islamic State are perceived as most dangerous since their Western passports allow them to reside in and travel to Western countries unnoticed.
“This was an attack not just on Paris and not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share. We're going to do whatever it takes ... to bring these terrorists to justice,” said United States President Barack Obama, while condemning the Paris atrocities from the White House.
Only a day before Paris saw the devastating nightmare unfold, Islamic State claimed responsibility for a suicide blast as well as a roadside bombing in Baghdad that apparently targeted Iraq’s Shiite population. The attack killed at least 26 people and wounded dozens of others, after the fanatic in question detonated his bomb at the memorial service of a Shiite militia fighter, who reportedly died battling against Islamic State troops in an Iraqi suburb. Soon after this attack, another militant proceeded to detonate his bomb near a Shiite shrine in Sadr City, killing at least five people and injuring 15 others. Even though state authorities confirmed all the casualty figures, they refused to divulge their identities, as none of them were authorized to speak to the media.
Tragically, this was not the first of Islamic State’s spate of attacks last week. On Thursday, a vicious case of double suicide bombing managed to terrorize a predominantly Shiite residential area in Beirut. The Lebanese Health Ministry confirmed that as many as 43 people had been killed and over 200 injured in what seemed to be the worst attack that Lebanon has suffered in years. Islamic State claimed responsibility for this attack as well, saying its motive was simply sectarian and Shiites do not have a right to live, as they are viewed as apostates.
Astounded by the religious radicals’ relentless attempts to terrorize innocent civilians and aware of the Paris brutalities, which are by far Europe’s worst terror attack in a decade, being directed from Syria and launched from Belgium, France sent out warplanes on November 15 to bomb Islamic State’s nerve center in Raqqa. Currently, France is the only European country that is conducting major combat operations against Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told the media that the terrorist organization, which has claimed responsibility, directly or indirectly, for several attacks that have taken place in different parts of the world since the end of last month, has been urging Muslims in Belgium to execute similar strategies on French territory as well as other European cities. France’s Defense Ministry confirmed that 10 fighter jets had successfully bombed several targets, including an Islamic State command base, Sunday evening.
Photo Credits: Vice.com