Bill Collier Jr- The salafist assualt on the offices of a satirical French newspaper in Paris were designed to send a message- if you slander the Prophet Mohamed or even any Salafist organization, such as ISIL, we will find you and kill you. And for them to “slander” their Prophet is to simply deny that he is a prophet, as Christians must necessarily do.
During the attack, two police officers, the newspaper editor, eight journalists, and a cartoonist, were killed. The 3-man assault team were wearing uniforms that matched and were using automatic AK-47 assault rifles (not the civilian weapons misnamed as “assault rifles” by anti-self defense media pundits and politicians). (It is possible these were semi-auto AK-47’s as our analysis is based only on video snippets). These weapons are illegal in France, which has tough anti-self defense laws aimed at creating a largely disarmed populace. The attackers also had possession of an RPG of Russian manufacture.
The deadly assault is all the more stunning because, despite the presence of guards on site and the rapid arrival of police (two of whom were killed, one caught on camera pleading for his life being before executed) the assault team were able to escape from the scene and remain at large. A car fire, or explosion (it is not clear which), in front of a Jewish synagogue a few miles from the scene of this assault took place within an hour of the attack but officials are not linking the two incidents.
The Salafists understand that such an attack will create an anti-Muslim backlash, which they calculate will lead to the further radicalization of the Muslim population. They consider any negative consequences suffered by Muslims, especially those whom they deem as not being true Muslims (because they reject Salafism), as being acceptable losses. The very idea that Muslims might be able or willing to “fit in” with a society that rejects such notions as theocracy or the imposition of Salafo-Islamic “sharia” (law) in civil law is repugnant to them, therefore any potential backlash against all Muslims, Salafists or not, is desireable: it drives a wedge between Muslims and “Western society.”
The attack itself was fairly straightforward. A three man assault time used surprise against a target that was, at most, expecting the potential for a lone gunmen. Using military precision, or what appeared to be military precision, the gunmen were able to enter the site, overcome or bypass any guards (if indeed they were in the building- it is known that the editor did have personal body guards), and find their victims all in one room where an editorial meeting was underway.
This is not necessarily a “highly skilled” action: these attackers did not face any credible military threat. The police on scene were not, as far as is known, military or paramilitary and may not have been equipped with automatic weapons. The response team may have come in too late to effect a capture of the assailants who appear to have planned their escape well in advance. Whether or not these attackers could have fought it out with any credible military or paramilitary force is unknown.
(The site was “under police protection” according the open press resports.)
But the training they demonstrated was clearly above that of a motley group of terrorist thugs. They did not in fact plan on being killed and they moved about, judging from video taken of their assault, in a coordinated, possibly rehearsed, manner. Against civilians who were under-armed or un-armed (it is assumed the bodyguards on site were not armed, however two police officers arrived in a vehicle, originally it was reported they arrived on bikes, and may have also been unarmed or lightly armed) even a modestly trained group can appear to perform well, but, again, they were attacking a low-threat target which hardly demanded much skill to overcome.
Upadate- after leaving the secene calmly, upon executing a defenseless French policeman on the street, the attackers ditched their getaway vehicle and, waving a rocket launcher, commandeered another vehicle. This would indicate a lower level of training than has been touted in some media outlets. Professionals would not have been caught “flat footed”, as it were, and would not have left their secondary mode of escape to chance. It is now believed the attackers have gone to ground, possibly merging in to the Muslim population, though French officials are sending hundreds of troops (police and others) into the streets in the biggest manhunt in Paris in decades. UPDATE 7PM- According to media sources, the French have killed one attacker and apprehended two after an extensive manhunt.
The Salafist calculation that blowback against Muslims may lead to further radicalization of the Franco-Muslim population may in fact be a miscalculation. In an insurgency the actors must swim in a friendly population which has general access to public life. The possibility of a French policy aimed at cutting off any Muslim immigration, of isolating the entire Muslim community, and of massive deportations of all Muslim immigrants and a general public suspicion of ALL Muslims would remove that population from public life. It may further radicalize Muslims, which would further radicalize the French, and which would squeeze the non-Salafist Muslims who become victims of both increased French zenophobia and Salafist extremism.
In short, the Salafists may be aiming at eleciting a French response that further radicalizes the Muslim population but what they are ignoring is the fact that such attacks radicalize the French population itself.
While political leaders refuse to call this an act of Islamic terrorism, let alone Salafist terrorism, average normal people with plain old common sense know fully well that this is in fact an act of Islamic terrorism, though I would argue it is Salafist terrorism aimed as much at the non-Salafists Muslims as outside infidels.
Concern is now being raised in the US and the West in general that such armed Salafist groups may be lying in wait to attack other soft targets in a bid to cause general fear and alarm, and to engender an anti-Muslim backlash that further radicalizes Muslims (and that ignores the fact that such attacks also radicalizes their target.) Whether or not this is true, or whether it being hyped to excuse further erosions of our civil liberties in the name of security, remains to be seen- but the spiral of radicalization on both sides is the end-game and that policy makers must consider carefully.