The Paris Attacks: Murderous Hatred in the City of Love
The attacks hit Paris where it is most vulnerable, in those places where young people go to have fun. But they were aimed at all of us. What can we do to defend ourselves? By SPIEGEL Staff
November has brought unseasonably warm weather to Paris, with mild evenings, bustling streets and full sidewalk cafés -- almost as though winter weren't just around the corner. On Friday, 80,000 people were sitting in light jackets in Stade de France as the French and German national teams gathered at mid-field for the anthems. "Le Marseillaise," the old war song that France adopted as its national anthem, began: "Against us tyranny's bloody standard is raised! Listen to the sound in the fields, the howling of these fearsome soldiers. They are coming into our midst to cut the throats of your sons and consorts."
At 9:20 p.m., everyone in the stadium -- French President François Hollande on the VIP stand, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier next to him, other VIPs in the company boxes, families with their sons and daughters, birthday boys and girls who had received free tickets, security personnel, ushers and ball boys -- heard an inexplicable detonation. The players on the field heard it too, with defender Patrice Evra even making a gesture of confusion in the middle of the on-field action. It was the moment when the most complex terror attack France, and indeed Western Europe, has seen in decades began.
During the next couple of hours, 129 people were murdered and 352 were injured, some critically -- men and women, butchered by at least seven terrorists in three teams carrying automatic weapons as they fired at cafés and restaurants. In the Bataclan concert hall, they carried out an unimaginably brutal massacre, with fully 89 people, most of them young, slaughtered during a two-and-a-half hour hostage-taking.
They died because their taste in music, their clothes, their hairstyles, their idea of fun, their pleasure in eating and drinking, their views of love and their ideas of life -- because of all of this, in the eyes of their murderers, they needed to die. They became victims because of their chance presence in a particularly animated corner of the lively city of Paris -- a metropolis that has long been a thorn in the side of members of provincial, Islamist squadrons of death.
The Scenes of the Crime
It wasn't the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe or the Champs-Elysées that were the symbolic targets of the attacks. Rather, the terrorists chose to focus on restaurants and bars -- places with names like Le Petit Cambodge, Café Bonne Bière and La Belle Equipe. The 10th arrondissement between the Gare de l'Est train station and the Canal Saint-Martin, and the 11th arrondissement between Place de la République and the Bastille, seem at first glance to be unlikely targets for a terrorist attack. They are not exactly on the agendas of most tourists who visit the city.
They are neighborhoods where cafés and bars stand side-by-side, along with small green grocers, boutiques, Moroccan kebab houses, Chinese backroom eateries and halal butchers. Immigrants from Algeria, Tunisia, Sudan and Mali live here alongside university students from around the world, tradesmen, media professionals and aging anarchists. The religion of those who live here plays no role. The Occident and the Orient are crammed together here in a maze of small streets and make the best of it -- a distillation of colorful, congenial, chaotic Europe at large.
The small square in front of the Petit Cambodge, where five streets converge, is always full of young people from Thursdays to Saturdays when the weather is good. The Cambodge was well-known even beyond the quarter for its tasty, affordable food: large bowls of rice noodles and vegetables, huge beef soups, all for just 14 ($15). Because the restaurant doesn't take reservations, you have to give the waiter your mobile phone number and wait for a free table over a beer across the street at the Carillon.
The killers arrived at 9:25 p.m., two men, perhaps three. They drove up in a black SEAT with Belgian license plates, stopped in the middle of the street, got out and opened fire on both the Cambodge and the Carillon. Fifteen people died in the hail of bullets and 10 were left with life-threatening injuries. Such scenes always evoke the question: Why? But in this case, it seems particularly pressing.
Can anyone be satisfied with the explanation that the extremists viewed the neighborhood's multicultural character as a provocation? That they hated a place where, on most days, people of different skin colors, backgrounds and religions coexist peacefully with one another?
"The attack here hit the very core of society," says philosopher Patrice Maniglier, former editor of the journal Les Temps modernes -- which was co-founded by Jean-Paul Sartre -- and a regular at Petit Cambodge. Maniglier believes the targets of the attacks were carefully chosen, places where the creative class, young people who made decent money, the winners of society, hung out. "The murderers wanted to strike fear into the hearts of those who have the least to fear," says Maniglier. "They wanted to destroy their sense of having nothing to worry about."
At 9:36 p.m., the scene repeated itself at the La Belle Equipe restaurant on Rue de Charonne. Nineteen people were killed there, with nine seriously injured.
At 9:40 p.m., as the third team was forcing its way into the Bataclan concert hall on Boulevard Voltaire, a suicide bomber blew himself up not far away in front of the Café Comptoir Voltaire. The bomber himself was the only one to die in the incident.
Taken together, the attacks seem to presage a new kind of postmodern terror -- a sort of best-of jihad that combines the pattern seen in the 2008 Mumbai attacks with the nihilistic violence of school shootings. The attackers used Kalashnikovs, the preferred weapon of all murderers who see themselves as rebels, but also suicide vests, as though making a grim reference to extremist violence in the Palestinian territories, Israel and Iraq. Finally, the attack on the Bataclan was reminiscent of Chechen attacks on targets in Russia. And all of the attacks last Friday in Paris, of course, breathe the inhuman brutality that Islamic State perpetrates every day in its zeal to establish an Islamist Caliphate.
Last Friday, the Eagles of Death Metal were playing in the Bataclan. The band's name led to early reports identifying its music as satanically tinged heavy metal, which is inaccurate. In fact, the group's name is ironic and its music much more mainstream.
The killers arrived at 9:40 p.m. In the Bataclan, the attack was not of the hit-and-run variety seen elsewhere in the city. Here, they planned something much larger. Those concert-goers who didn't make it to the emergency exits quickly enough were taken hostage and the extremists took their time killing people at random until police finally raided the building and put a stop to the slaughter. They shot one of the perpetrators while the other two blew themselves up. Eighty-nine people were killed in the concert hall and countless others were injured.
As of Tuesday, five of the seven perpetrators killed in Paris had been identified as citizens of the European Union. They were French or Belgian, homegrown in Western Europe. The identity of two still hasn't been determined. Even the suspected masterminds based in Syria -- Abdelhamid Abaaoud and Fabien Clain -- are Belgian and French nationals. If the French now have an interest in emphasizing that the attacks of Black Friday were steered from Syria, it also serves the purpose of disguising the fact that the attackers were ultimately locals who apparently hated their home countries so much that they trained in Syria to become killers.
Every perpetrator in Friday's attacks who has thus far been identified had at some point in time been identified by intelligence services or the police as a potential danger. And all had fallen off the authorities' radar, which fits in well with recent patterns in international terrorism. Some perpetrators go underground entirely before their attacks, while others pose as inconspicuous, normal citizens. As they go into sleeper mode, security officials stop tracking them. In due time, they reactivate and attack without police detection.
Unlike many of their predecessors, these terrorists weren't radicalized in prison. As far as is currently known, not a single one of the suspects that actively took part in the Paris slaughter spent time in jail, a factor which further complicates the work of police and intelligence agents.
Samy Aminour, 28, one of the perpetrators at Bataclan, was born in France and grew up in Drancy, a suburb of Paris. His family lives on the third floor of an apartment building located at Place Marcel Paul, a horseshoe estate with a green field in the middle. People here are familiar with his background and neighbors are happy to share their anecdotes. One elderly woman said Samy would greet her with kisses as a child and that the Animours were a friendly family.
The killer's father worked as a salesman, his mother for a cultural association. His eldest sister lives in Dubai and the youngest studies at the Sorbonne. In photos, his sisters appear to be independent and self-confident. They don't wear headscarves. And Samy? He worked as a bus driver in Paris on Line 148.
International Arrest Warrant
Authorities began investigating him in 2012 because he was suspected of having planned to travel to a terrorist training camp in Yemen. In autumn 2013, he failed to show up for a mandatory check-in with justice officials, prompting France to issue an international arrest warrant. It was the time when Samy Animour disappeared to Syria, where he became a terrorist.
In December 2014, an article appeared in the French newspaper Le Monde, which the editors have now republished. The article describes how Samy's father traveled to Syria in order to try to lure his son back home. But the attempt failed. His son had gotten married in Syria and wanted to stay with the IS despite an injury he had suffered. Ultimately, though, he did return to France. And on Friday night, he was inside Bataclan, with a machine gun in his hand and explosives wrapped around his waist.
Ismaël Omar Mostefaï, 29, also died inside the Bataclan after reportedly blowing himself up. Police were able to identify him after finding one of his fingers amidst the rubble. Mostefaï's family has Algerian roots and he was born in a Parisian suburb. Later, his family moved to Chartres, southwest of Paris. Mostefaï had a long rap sheet and police knew him well. He was convicted eight times for petty crimes between 2004 and 2010, always getting off relatively easily with suspended sentences. He had apparently been a hoodlum and a swindler before turning into a fanatic.
In 2010, he is thought to have became the father of a girl, right around the same time he popped up on the radar of French intelligence services. Intelligence sources reported that Mostefaï had taken up contact with a radical preacher in Chartres who today lives in Belgium.
In Chartres, where Mostefaï resided until 2012, the family's former home is located in a lower-middle-class housing estate in the city's Madeleine district. The future perpetrator, neighbors say, was a tall, skinny youth who greeted people on the streets politely. They say he used to visit the Anoussra mosque in downtown Chartres together with his father. Some attendees of the mosque still remember him well and say he didn't appear to be aggressive, but added that there were rumors that Mostefaï had gone to Syria. After his departure from Chartres, the authorities lost all track of Mostefaï. It is believed that he made his way to Syria via Turkey in 2013 and that he spent a long period of time there. On Monday, the news site Buzzfeed reported that Turkish authorities had twice warned French investigators about Mostefaï, but that the French authorities only contacted them after the attacks in Paris.
Europe's Most-Wanted Man
Brahim Abdeslam, 31, whose suicide attack in front of the Comptoir Voltaire remains a mystery because no one died other than the perpetrator, hails from Molenbeek, a troubled neighborhood in Brussels, Belgium. His brother Salah, who also participated in the attacks and whose whereabouts is unknown, is currently perhaps the most-wanted man in Europe. A document obtained exclusively by SPIEGEL provides evidence that Brahim had been charged in the past with criminal actions, including forgery of documents, receiving stolen goods and burglary. But judges in Brussels treated him mildly: Brahim had to do 35 hours of community service and pay a fine of 55 that went towards, of all things, a special fund for the "victims of wanton violence." His lawyer Olivier Martins, says of his client, "He was a polite person and not a strict practicing Muslim. I had the impression he was on the right path."
The names of the perpetrators may be different, but the rest is often the same -- the inconspicuous biography prior to their radicalization and, ultimately, their transformation into raging murderers. But who instructs these men? Who is it that brainwashes them? Thus far, it looks as though a Belgian man served as the decisive mastermind behind the Paris attacks: Abdelhamid Albaaoud, 28, born in Brussels' Molenbeek-Saint-Jean neighborhood and one of Belgium's best-known jihadists. He is fond of wearing the oversized, soft cap of the Afghanistan Mujahedeen, a fashion choice that makes him look like a bit of a clown. There are many images of him out there -- videos, selfies and interviews. He is adept at using social networks, particularly since joining up with the Islamic State in 2013. In a February 2015 interview with the Islamic State propaganda magazine Dabiq, he bragged about how he had traveled back and forth several times between Belgium and Syria without being intercepted.
Abaaoud has been sought by police now for months. This summer, a court convicted him in absentia and sentenced him to 20 years in prison. One of the most unsettling images of Abaaoud shows him in Syria in February 2014. A friend filmed the video using a smartphone. In it, Abaaoud can be seen at the wheel of a pick-up truck wearing a cardigan with a Norwegian pattern, a light blue shirt beneath it and a mujahedeen cap on his head. Abaaoud talks about the fight against the infidels, the kuffar.
He uses classic IS propaganda vernacular, but when he speaks, the video feels like a cheerful vacation moment in which he is obviously having a lot of fun. With his bright eyes and winning smile, the IS fighter appears to be fun-loving and almost endearing as he begins to describe the atrocities he has committed. "Before, we towed jet skis, motorcycles, quad bikes, big trailers filled with gifts for vacation in Morocco," he says. "Now, thank God, following God's path, we're towing apostates, infidels who are fighting us." Abaaoud is still beaming as he points to the back, where six or more chained up corpses can be seen as they are dragged behind the truck.
A Close Network
Abaaoud is believed to have participated in a whole series of attacks -- some of which failed in the most amateurish ways possible. The best-known example is the failed attack on at least one church on April 19. At the time, a 24-year-old Algerian student named Sid Ahmed Ghlam called medics in Paris and claimed someone had shot him in the foot. As police arrived at the scene in the 13th Arrondissement of Paris, they found a trail of blood leading to a car. Inside, they found a Kalashnikov, two small firearms, a bulletproof vest and ammunition. Inside his apartment, they uncovered a document describing the planned attack. It turned out Ghlam had planned to commit an attack on a church in the southern Paris suburb of Villejuif that morning but had instead accidentally shot himself in the foot.
Abaaoud is also believed to have been involved in the failed attack on the high-speed TGV Thalys train from Brussels to Paris in August and to have known Mehdi Nemmouche, the man who killed four people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels on May 24, 2014, the first attack in Europe attributed to Islamic State.
Just how closely networked this milieu is can be seen in Abaaoud's connections to one of the best-known Islamic State terrorists in France: Fabien Clain, a 35-year-old who goes by the alias "Omar." Jihadist Clain, from Toulouse, was involved in the failed attack in Villejuif, and security officials believe it was his voice reading out the French version of Islamic State's claims of responsibility for the Paris attacks.
Clain is not part of the newest generation of jihadists who became radicalized by way of the war in Syria. According to the left-wing daily Libération, he has been suspected of involvement in terrorism since 2001. Originally from the French island La Réunion in the Indian Ocean, he and his brother Jean-Michel, 33, are converts to Islam and led a Salafist group in the public housing quarters of Toulouse. They both married women who had also converted to Islam and wore burqas and they both had hoped to travel to Iraq for training and went later, in 2014, to Syria. It is considered likely that they became involved in the Paris attacks there -- which would represent a serious setback for the French security apparatus.
To be sure, the French jihadi scene is large. According to the French domestic intelligence agency DGSI, up to 10,000 people are registered as "fichés S," meaning they are considered a security threat. And yet, when things get serious, it is a network where the same names always seem to be involved and within which earlier generations continually recruit new followers. So why can't they be stopped?
The Belgium Problem
A significant part of the answer is to be found in Belgium rather than in France. This attack, too, led investigators to the notorious Molenbeek neighborhood, the poor Brussels quarter located near the city center. Here, within sight of the chic boutiques and restaurants across the canal which separates the area from the heart of the Belgian capital, live 95,000 people, 40 percent of whom are Muslim and many of them jobless. Just six kilometers away, in the European Quarter, laws are made for the entire Continent. But in Molenbeek, radical Islamists meet in secret to make plans for how best to attack the Continent and its values.
Molenbeek used to be a place where immigrants from Turkey and Morocco would come looking for work, but in recent years it has become a crossroads for several jihadist movements and its postal code, 1080, has become shorthand for "Jihadist City." A man who was sought in connection with the attack against the satire magazine Charlie Hebdo in January lived in Molenbeek. So too did the two young men who, a short time later, were shot to death during an anti-terror operation in Verviers on the German-Belgian border.
It's also easy to find weapons in Molenbeek. The man who injured several people on the high-speed Thalys train in August armed himself here.
Deputy Mayor Ahmed El Khannouss, who knows the scene well, candidly admits to having lost control. "It works like a sect," he says of the Islamist scene. It is no longer enough to simply keep an eye on the more radical of the 22 mosques in the quarter. As though to prove as much, an address began circulating soon after the Paris attacks where two men involved in the killing had lived: Place Communale 30, directly across from the Molenbeek district city hall. It is here that the Abdeslam brothers were from. There are three of them, and two were involved in the Paris attacks. The third, the oldest, works for the district administration and was released after being questioned by police. "It is a totally unremarkable family," Khannouss says.
Brussels: The Ideal Hiding Spot for Terrorists?
But simply pointing to Molenbeek isn't enough. Just looking at the Brussels city quarter, which is currently besieged by camera teams from across the world, doesn't explain why the small country of Belgium has become Europe's primary source of jihadists. Even away from Molenbeek, Belgium is a difficult country. The country's two largest populations, the Flemish and the Walloons, have long been engaged in a hard-bitten battle for influence, a power struggle that has left its mark on the Belgian security apparatus. "Brussels is a relatively small city, 1.2 million people," Interior Minister Jan Jambon said at a recent event by POLITICO Europe in Brussels. "And yet we have six police departments. Nineteen different municipalities. New York is a city of 11 million. How many police departments do they have? One."
Radicalization, administrative chaos and its central position in the heart of Europe all make Brussels an ideal hiding spot for people who don't want to be identified: Islamists, weapons dealers and terrorists planning attacks. With Eurostar, it takes a mere two hours to get to London while Paris is just over an hour away by train.
The consequence is that many Western jihadists come from Belgium. As a share of its population, Belgium exports more Islamists than any other European country. Belgian police believe that some 200 jihadists from the country are currently in Syria, with 130 already having returned -- an immensely challenging situation for the country's splintered security apparatus.
Hans Bonte, a bald man in a short-sleeved shirt, is one of those trying to do something about it. He used to be a social worker in Molenbeek but is now mayor of the Vilvoorde district on the northern edge of the Belgian capital. Fully 28 people have left the well-off district to join the war in Syria, with the last having left in May of 2014. That is more than any other Belgium city. Eight of them have returned thus far. Some are disillusioned, but others hope to bring the fight back to Europe. "I know them all exactly," Bonte says.
Those who return to Vilvoorde from Syria are first received by the mayor, but that's just the beginning. Bonte has developed a special program for the returnees, as well as for roughly 45 other men who have shown themselves to be open to the approaches of Islamists. A special team -- made up of a police officer, a teacher, an imam and sometimes even an ex-girlfriend -- is assembled to keep an eye on each of them. It takes time, energy and money, but it has proven effective.
So effective, in fact, that it has been copied across Belgium. Indeed, one of the only places the plan hasn't been implemented is in Brussels proper, just a few kilometers from Bonte's city hall. "In Brussels, the police force is in disarray and there is a lack of control over radical Islamists," Bonte says, repeating a warning he has long been sounding.
On Monday morning of this week, the police carried out raids in Molenbeek, with dozens of officers in full gear, wearing balaclavas and bullet-proof vests and carrying automatic weapons, running through the streets and alleyways. Some took to the roofs of the gray, public housing projects. Several apartments were searched and numerous suspects were detained and interrogated.
It was the largest police raid ever seen in Molenbeek. Special units blocked off large sections of the district, police tape was everywhere and officers guarded the entrances to some streets. The officers were looking for Salah Abdeslam, who is thought to have been involved in the Paris attacks, but who has thus far managed to evade capture, despite having been checked at a police roadblock in the northern French town of Cambrai set up after the attacks.
During the raid, one could hear police megaphones demanding that suspects come out into the streets, but nobody did. A neighboring balcony offered a view into one of the blocked-off streets and eight hooded and heavily armed police officers could be seen in front of one building entrance. They broke down the door and went inside -- and didn't emerge for quite some time. Half an hour later, they came out with two people in handcuffs and put them into a minivan.
The raid in Molenbeek lasted a total of six hours. Residents stood in front of green grocers and textile shops drinking Turkish coffee and complaining about not being allowed into their homes. Many talked about how Molenbeek wasn't all that bad of a place to live.
When the operation ended, the police still hadn't found Salah Abdeslam. Later, state prosecutors said that none of those detained during the Monday raids were taken into custody.
The Dead and the Survivors
Djamila Houd, 41, saleswoman, died. Valentin Ribet, 26, lawyer, died. Guillaume Decherf, 43, music journalist, died. Ariane Theiller, 24, died. Kheireddine Sahbi, died. Cécile Misse, 32, died. Alberto Gonzalez Garrido, 29, died. Thomas Duperron, 30, died.
Manuel Dias, 63, a Portuguese bus driver who had been living in France for decades, was the first victim of the night, the only person killed by the first suicide bomber at Stade de France.
Thomas Otvas, 28, survived. He is a window display decorator, a tall, slender man. He says: "It was an attack on all of us." He lost three friends in the Petit Cambodge, they were sitting at a table outside when the shots hissed through the air. A fourth friend was seriously injured and ended up in the hospital. "We hope he pulls through," says Thomas. His hands are playing with his cocktail glass, running through his hair and over his face. He consumes his drink in large gulps.
Ludovic Boumbas, 40, whom friends called "Ludo," was celebrating the birthday of a friend in the La Belle Équipe restaurant when the murderers arrived. Boumbas, witnesses said, didn't hide when the shots began to fire. Instead, he tried to save people. He threw himself in front of two Tunisian women, but the killers' bullets were faster. Then he placed himself protectively in front of a woman he didn't know, who survived the attack with serious injuries. Boumbas died, a man from Congo who made his living delivering packages and who, his friends all said, loved life.
Nicolette, 23 years old, a proud Parisian and a teacher, survived. Two of her friends are dead, killed in the Bataclan. They were standing left of the stage up front when the shooting began. Her boyfriend jerked her to the floor and she found a crack underneath the stage and crawled into it, a small hiding place covered by a piece of cloth. Her boyfriend was hit in the back, and lay there. "I heard shots, many in a row. I didn't know where the shooters were. I looked through the cloth and people were laying everywhere, but I didn't see any weapons," said Nicolette.
'You Want Me to Be Afraid. Forget It.'
She only remembers that the shots stopped at some point, but then the screaming became even louder. She sat in the dark, fighting her own panic. Then came more shots, calmer, more targeted. People fell to the floor in front of her, bleeding heavily. Another pause. Nicolette said she saw a man in dark clothing, without a mask, carrying an assault rifle and strolling between the people. He shot to the left and to the right, just like that. Pause. Then more shots. The same thing happened four times in total. "I had my eyes open the entire time," says Nicolette. "But I couldn't cry."
Raphael Hilz, 28, was born in Munich. His life ended in the Petit Cambodge. He was a tall, fit athlete, the son of a pediatrician in Oberammergau. At the time of his death, he was eating with two colleagues from Mexico and Ireland. They too were hit by the bullets of the Kalashnikov, but survived. Hilz was an architect, working in the Paris office of star architect Renzo Piano. Colleagues say he loved Paris and the freedom the city offered.
Hélène Muyal, 35, died in the Bataclan, leaving behind a 17-month-old son and her husband, Antoine Leiris, who addressed the Islamists in a Facebook post: "On Friday you took the life of a wonderful person, the love of my life, mother of my son, but I will not give you my hatred. I don't know you and I don't want to know you, you, who are dead souls. If the God for which you blindly kill created us in his image, then every bullet in my wife's body has also torn apart his heart. I will not give you the gift of hating you. You want me to be afraid, to look at my fellow citizens with skepticism. Forget it! In death, my wife will accompany me in this paradise of free souls, which you will never be able to enter."
Max Besnard, a thin man with a beard and septum ring, survived the Bataclan. He knows the venue well, he has been going to concerts there for a long time, in the beautiful half-circle with the red galleries, held up by art-deco columns. It was a good place to celebrate music. George Brassens performed here, as did, much later, Lou Reed's Velvet Underground.
In the rear section, between the two entrances, there is a bar. That's where Besnard and his friend Thomas got plastic cups with beer and worked their way towards the front of the stage. After an hour, Besnard's shirt was sweated through from dancing. That's when the shooting began. Soon, everybody was screaming. People fell down, fell over, fell onto one another.
Playing Dead to Survive
Besnard lay there, pretending to be dead and hoping that he would be spared. He couldn't move, with two injured people lying across his legs. There was blood everywhere. The killers reloaded four times, and then shot until their magazines were empty. When the two terrorists went up to join the third member of their group in the galleries, he crawled to the emergency exit, next to the stage. He followed the trails of blood and escaped to a student dormitory directly behind the Bataclan. There he sat with others for almost three hours in a darkened room.
He describes the night while sitting in a café in front of the city hall of the 11th arrondissement; his hands are shaking so badly that he can barely grasp the straw in his orange juice. He is just coming from a psychologist; the city has established a help center in the city hall. A table with flowers and a condolence stands in front of the café, the Bataclan is located less than a kilometer away.
Nohemi González, 23, a student from California, died.
Maud Serrault, 37, recently married to a German who survived the shooting in the Bataclan, died.
François-Xavier Prévost, 29, who worked in advertising and loved tennis, was killed.
Asta Diakité, a devout Muslim, was shot to death while going shopping.
One-hundred-and-twenty-nine people died in this night, old, young, French, tourists, Christians, Muslims, atheists. Men and women. People.
In the days that followed, many things in France felt like a turning point, with the president and prime minister leading the country onto war footing. "We will strike this enemy, in order to destroy it," said head of government Manuel Valls, in an interview on one of the country's main news shows, "in France, in Europe and in Syria and in Iraq, and we will win this war."
Those are big, helpless words, taken from the speeches of US President George W. Bush -- whose wars were failures. An alliance willing to conduct a ground war on Syrian territory almost certainly won't materialize any time soon and France can't go it alone. Domestically, an even harsher fight will begin, against enemies of the open society. It will be waged by intelligence services and special police divisions using border controls, electronic eavesdropping and spying, and it will need to avoid burying social freedoms in the quest for security in France, where human rights were invented, and in the rest of Europe.
It is the second time in a year that France has been struck. Ten months separate the January attack on satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo from last week's attack on Paris. The shock was similar, but the political and social reaction has been different. National unity was still invoked, but the urgency seemed to have shifted. This time, the signs pointed less to "keep calm and carry on," and more towards retaliation.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls invoked the "union sacrée," the holy bond of the French. "We are at war," Valls explained on a TV show on Saturday, and repeated the word "war" nine times in the approximately 10 minutes that followed.
The last time François Hollande marched on the Place de la République flanked by over 40 state and government leaders from around the world, he repeatedly called for "calm and unity." But on Monday, he marched through a stone corridor in the Versailles Palace, flanked by his sabre-carrying national guard.
'War' and 'Cold Determination'
In front of assembled ministers, parliamentarians and senators, he mostly spoke about "war" and the "cold determination" that pushes him to lead this war against terrorism, against the jihadists. To "destroy this organization," the Islamic State.
Hollande has dispatched the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle to the waters just off the Syrian coast. He ratcheted up the air strikes on Syrian territory, targeting Islamic State command centers. He is calling for a special session of the UN Security Council and has reminded people of the mutual assistance clause in the EU Treaty.
He now intends to govern France under a state of emergency for three months, which will include border controls. He wants to tighten criminal law, and create new positions in the administration of justice. Five thousand police officers are to be hired and the defense budget will not, as had been planned, be reduced in the coming years.
Hollande's announcements are similar to many of the demands made by Marine Le Pen, head of the right-wing populist National Front. People are predicting her party will come out on top in the regional elections in two weeks.
It will be interesting to see whether that win will be big or small. One of the few moments thus far that the French people valued their president -- during which the majority of French people were of the opinion that he was doing a good job -- was immediately after the January attacks on Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket. They liked the sense of calm that Hollande exuded, despite everything. He found the right words, despite the shock.
That may now be different; now that he is no longer just the president, but, above all else, the "chef de guerre," or supreme warlord. In January, he wanted to unite and reconcile, now he wants to fight. But a majority of people agree. The conflicts in Africa and the Middle East, in which the French participated, were supported by French citizens even though that always provided fuel for anti-French propaganda.
Now France's army is no longer just operating in Mali, Nigeria and Chad; it is also patrolling the streets and squares of Paris. The French terror system Vigipirate was already at its highest level in January. This supposedly resulted in the foiling of several attacks. The government wanted to make 1 million available for the fight against jihadism, and the Interior Ministry hired advisors, but the widely announced initiative was essentially limited to a number of websites, leading to ridicule from more than just the opposition.
French Apartheid in the Banlieues
After the January attacks, in order to show that France's politicians were treating causes and not just symptoms, Prime Minister Valls announced that he would fight against the system of "territorial, social and ethnic apartheid" that existed in French suburbs. All three perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo attack, the two Kouachi brothers and Amedy Coulibaly, came from poor areas of Paris or the banlieues.
For decades, these suburbs have stood as proof that the Republican utopia has come to nothing. There, more so than elsewhere, equal opportunity is nothing more than a figure of speech. People with the wrong address and the wrong name can't get jobs, nor do they have much possibility of social advancement. And yet nothing has changed. The French parallel society has become starker, and its marginal figures have been even more strongly stigmatized than before.
It will now be even more difficult for France, which has been trapped in crisis for years, and for Paris, whose greater metropolitan area has 5 million inhabitants, to optimistically look forward and tackle reforms. The days after the attack felt tense, and because of the many closures, they took away the life of a city that is otherwise so excessively alive. The 110 stores on the Champs Élysée stayed closed over the weekend -- and when one knows that they make around 10 million in revenue on a good Saturday, one gets a sense of the economic damage. The Printemps department store was closed, as were Galeries Lafayette, Carrousel du Louvre, Gucci, Puma, Le Bon Marché and even, outside of Paris, Disneyland.
The city will be able to handle such closures. But the country needs a plan, one which it does not have and which is difficult to develop against modern-day terror -- a plan to become safer again. There are many things that stand in its path.
Just look at the videos released by the IS propaganda division. There have been 975 since Jan. 1, 2014 alone -- most recently there have been two to three per day. And both countries that the videos most commonly target, Russia and France, are the same two that have now been attacked in spectacular fashion, the Russians in the sky above the Sinai and the French in their capital, Paris. "There is a connection between the countries that are named in the videos and the targets of the attacks," says Javier Lesaca, an Islamic State expert at George Washington University in the United States who has assessed all IS videos.
According to Lesaca, about every seventh video is in French. One year ago, in November 2014, the IS first called for the preparation of attacks against France, with a film titled "What are you waiting for?"
In May, IS released a video with a speech by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed caliph of Islamic State, followed by images of Air France planes and French emblems. And on Oct. 31 of this year, about three weeks ago, the IS media division posted a further video calling for attacks in French. Lesaca is convinced that each of the countries named in the most recent video, which appeared at the start of this week, should be concerned -- especially France, the United States and Italy, whose capitals of Washington, DC, and Rome were explicitly described as future targets.
A Wounded City
Now Paris is a wounded city. A shadow hung over it in the days following the attack. It is more seriously damaged than after the attacks on Charlie Hebdo in January. It felt good for the weekend to pass, for Monday to come, for the kids go to back to school, the stores to open and the deathly silence of Sunday to be over.
The politicians may be talking about war, but the Parisians seem to be in a less battle-ready mood. They seem injured, insecure and sad. In front of the locations where the horror took place, the Bataclan, the Petit Cambodge, shrines of flowers and candles are growing. People are standing together at the République and mourning the dead despite the ban on public gatherings.
On Sunday evening, there were scenes in the city that suggested that the attack had broken apart a basic sense of confidence. In some areas short, intense moments of panic broke out -- because there had been a loud noise, because a lightbulb had exploded, because on a corner someone shouted something in the wrong pitch, because people were talking about shots where there weren't any, because friends were sending each other nervous messages, saying that they should stay home, that people were shooting outside. No shots were fired, not on Monday, not on Tuesday, but the possibility of gunfire is now in everybody's head, and what else is terrorism than the implanting of fear into the heads and hearts of people?
Charlie Hebdo had a different answer. The satirical newspaper, the target of the Islamist attack just a few months ago in which 12 people died, showed on its front page a happy man pierced with holes from which champagne was spluttering. Next to the drawing were the words: "They have the weapons. I don't give a shit. We have the champagne!"
Update: On Wednesday, after SPIEGEL went to the printers, security officials in France carried out a seven-hour police operation in response to the attacks. Paris found itself in a state of emergency once again during the early hours of Wednesday morning when, at 4:30 a.m. police engaged in a stand-off with suspects in the suburb of Saint-Denis. Heavily armed soldiers and police secured the district, instructing residents to stay inside their apartments and to close their windows. In one apartment house in Rue du Corbillon that had been surrounded by police, a woman blew herself up as special forces stormed the apartment. A further suspected terrorist was also shot dead by the elite unit. Police arrested a total of seven people on Wednesday morning and, around noon, a half-naked man was led out of the building wearing a blood-smeared t-shirt. The goal of the raid had been to nab Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the Belgian man suspected of being the mastermind behind Friday's attack. But by early Wednesday evening, it remained unclear whether he had been inside either of the two apartments that police had raided. The Washington Post reported that Abaaoud was killed in the raid, but authorities refused to confirm the report. The French magazine L'Obs has since reported that the woman who blew herself up with a suicide belt was Abaaoud's cousin. On Wednesday afternoon, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the operation had succeeded in capturing individuals who could have engaged in further terrorist attacks.
By Markus Becker, Sven Becker, Rafael Buschmann, Georg Diez, Ullrich Fichtner, Peter Hell, Björn Hengst, Julia Amalia Heyer, Katrin Kuntz, Walter Mayr, Peter Müller, Conny Neumann, Miriam Olbrisch, Stephan Orth, Mathieu von Rohr, Christoph Scheuermann, Holger Stark, Petra Truckendanner, Andreas Ulrich, Andreas Wassermann and Antje Windmann
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