Friday, January 08, 2016

08-Jan-16: In Paris, a religious man with a butcher knife (but no bomb) is stopped

Police at the scene in Paris yesterday [Image Source]
France, after the mass Islamist-terror killings of Friday November 13, 2015, is not the place it was, and might not ever be again.

Yesterday (Thursday), almost a year to the minute after the Islamist killings at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris (followed a few days later by the murders at the Hypercacher Jewish supermarket), a young man  shouting "Allahu akbar!" ("God is greater"), wielding a butcher knife and carrying a document with an Islamic State emblem and what AFP calls "an unequivocal claim of responsibility in Arabic", was shot dead by French police. This happened just before noon in the "multi-ethnic" Goutte d'Or neighborhood of nothern Paris.

The shouting man was said to be wearing an explosives vest, creating the impression of being a human bomb with some ideology on his mind. But after he had been killed, the vest turned out to be some sort of fake. The butcher knife however was a butcher knife.
Scores of police descended Thursday on the northern neighborhood that was the site of the attempted attack, blocking it off to pedestrians and ordering shops to close. Metro stations in the area, which is not far from the Montmartre district that is home to the Sacre Coeur Cathedral, were closed and buses halted, leaving scores of residents, including many elderly, to walk long distances only to find they could not get into their homes. "It's like the Charlie Hebdo affair isn't over," said Nora Borrias, a 27-year-old waiting for her barricaded street to reopen. She said she no longer feels a sense of safety...  [Agence France-Press, January 8, 2016]
Goutte d’Ord neighborhood: Martin Parr has been photographing its
cultural diversity for years [Image Source]
The assailant has not yet been publicly identified. French security officials are said to be "working on the hypothesis" that he is a 20-year-old Moroccan Arab who took part in a robbery in France's Var region in 2013. Fingerprints are reported to be part of the reason for the connection. That robber identified himself at the time as Ali Sallah of Casablanca. The authorities worked out that whatever his name, he had been in France illegally and was ordered to leave the country after robbery. Did he leave? Is this the same person? No one seems to know.

But identities tend to be fluid in matters like urban Islamist terror. And so too are matters of individual and public security:
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve praised the “remarkable work” of the security forces in the incident. “In a country where the level of threat is extremely high, the police, gendarmes, the security forces... are on the frontline,” he said... “Faced with these adversaries, it is essential that every service – police, gendarmerie, intelligence, military – work in perfect harmony, with the greatest transparency, and that they share all the information at their disposal,” he said. [Agence France-Press, January 8, 2016]
French criticism of Israel's pre-occupation with Palestinian Arab terror has long been a fixture in France/Israel discourse. For instance, this mild-ish statement from not so long ago by a foreign ministry spokesperson in Paris objecting to measures taken by Israel against Islamist and other terrorist actions:
"France condemns the consequences of the raid," he said. "While we are all for Israeli security, France recalls the utmost necessity to avoid civilian harm,"
In Israel, there's wall-to-wall agreement about that necessity. But France's security people and Israel's know there are times when you must act quickly and decisively even when there's a risk, as seems to have happened in Paris yesterday, that the attacker did not actually have a bomb on his body - only a butcher knife.

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