By Boaz Ganor

(Re-published from The Jerusalem Post, Nov. 15, 2015) On Friday, France, Europe and the whole world experienced a significant escalation in the international terror campaign being waged by the Islamic State organization. The biggest terrorist attack to hit Europe in years, which caused a terrible bloodbath during the course of which hundreds of innocent people were killed and wounded, requires a precise investigation of the series of events before and during the attack; the policies of France, Europe and the rest of the world; as well as a probe of the current doctrine for countering terror in the West.

“The terrorists who executed the attacks Friday night might have been part of a sleeper cell of European Islamist ‘foreign fighters’ who returned from Syria and Iraq and maintained contact with ISIS as its operators in France.”
From this perspective, it appears that France marks the misconception and Western failure when it comes to the way many European and Western countries deal with terrorism.

It is interesting to note that most of the terrorist attacks carried out by Islamic-jihadist militants in Europe recently focused on France or have some connection with France. Take, for example, the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices, the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket in Paris, and even the one on the Belgium Jewish Museum in Brussels, carried out by the terrorist Mehdi Nemmouche, a Frenchman who crossed the border to Brussels and then returned to France.

All signs point to ISIS terrorists carrying out the simultaneous attacks on Friday night, even though they reflect a change in the modus operandi usually adopted by the organization and an adoption of the methods used in the past by al-Qaida in complex, multi-faceted, meticulously planned attacks carried out by well-coordinated cells.

Contrary to past attacks carried out by ISIS in Europe and France, which were for the most part executed by lone wolves or a small group of relatives or friends inspired by Islamic State but without receiving operational aid from the organization, this time the attacks probably were carried out by a cell that was enlisted, trained and given support and operational instructions from the organization.

The terrorists who executed the attacks Friday night might have been part of a sleeper cell of European Islamist “foreign fighters” who returned from Syria and Iraq and maintained contact with ISIS as its operators in France. According to French security sources, there are many dozens of such ISIS operators in France who fit this description.

Another possibility is that the attacks were carried out by a cell that infiltrated into France from outside with the express purpose of executing them (on the model of the 9/11 attacks in the United States). In this case, it is possible that the terrorists came from Syria, Iraq or other countries under the guise of the recent mass wave of migration to Europe.

The attacks in Paris indicate a very high level of planning, preparation and execution capabilities. They involved coordination of massive attacks in a simultaneous or gradual fashion at six different locations, during which separate cells carried out attacks at around the same time at different areas of Paris.

In this case, the terrorist cells integrated shooting attacks, mass killings, suicide bombings and hostage-taking, while on the face of it, the terrorists all planned suicides rather than negotiating over hostages.

The very fact that the terrorists included in their series of dramatic plans “the classical suicide attack,” signals that this was an organizational terrorist attack and not an independent initiative of a lone wolf. (In this context, it is worth noting that all the suicide attacks carried out in different parts of the world in which terrorists carried bombs and detonated them to kill as many people as possible were dispatched by organizations and not lone wolves …

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Dr. Boaz Ganor is Founder and Executive Director of INSCT Partner Institution the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) and Ronald Lauder Chair for Counter-Terrorism and Dean of the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy, and Strategy, Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliya, Israel.

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