The French Paper Charlie Hebdo was attacked this morning, at about 1PM Paris time by gunmen. The two, possibly three gunmen, it has been reported, were shouting, “Allah Akbar”, the battle cry for Islamic fundamentalists worldwide when they attacked the Paris based newspaper.
The newspaper is familiar with terrorism, though not on this scale. In response to their 2011 November “Charia Hebdo” (a reference tolaw) issue, which featured a “guest-edit” by Muhammad the Prophet of Islam, and decried world wide by Islamist for its blasphemous images, the offices were firebombed and the website hacked.
So far, it appears that 12 people have been killed and four people wounded in the assassinations and shooting attacks. Included in this number are believed to be at least five members contributors to the paper, four of its founding cartoonists and an economist. At least one of the cartoonists was cited as being on Al-Qaeda’s most wanted list for his role as one of the editors of the “Charia Hebdo” issue of 2011. Also counted are two police officers who died in the line duty attempting to stop the attack.
One eye witness account, that of Corinne Rey, a designer known as Coco,said that she was forced to let the attackers into the Charlie Hebdo building. She said:
I had gone to pick up my daughter from daycare. Arriving at the door of the newspaper building, two hooded and armed men brutally threatened us.
They wanted to enter, go up. I typed the code. They shot Wolinski, Cabu … it lasted five minutes … I had taken refuge under a desk …
They spoke French perfectly … claiming to be Al-Qaida.
In a video of the incident, being shared on the Guardian two gunmen can be seen exiting a car presumably near the Charlie Hebdo building, as a news van can be seen near where the shooters brutally gunned down an unarmed bystander.
From what we can see plainly, the two shooters are well armed, both carrying what appear to be AK-47’s, as well as well armored with additional gear. The shooter nearest the camera concerns me, as a former Marine Corps marksmanship instructor, the most. He is wearing what appears to be either some form of load bearing vest, which the military uses to carry additional ammunition, or a bullet proof vest of desert coloring. The truth is, probably both.
More concerning than this is his tactical carry of the weapon. Both shooters seem to wield the Russian made AK-47 adeptly. These weapons are readily available by many avenues, and abundant in the Middle Eastern conflict, but the ability to fire it well is in less supply. The weapon is capable of automatic fire and fires a larger round than the US made M-16. This means that the weapon has extremely deadly potential, but also requires greater skill to use well in delivering accurate fire. The two assassins demonstrate a knowledge of the weapon’s use, obvious by the casualty count, but also displayed in their carry. Note how the nearer shooter holds his weapon with elbows inward pressed against his body. He also has his body firmly behind the weapon to absorb recoil and raises the weapon to eye level as he is sighted-in while searching around corners for his victim. This shows some degree of military style training and discipline in weapons use.
Moving on to speculation, it should be obvious that this attack shows a level of sophistication which was unmatched in recent “lone wolf” attacks such as the Australian hostage crisis last month. From the evidence we’ve seen so far, two, maybe more, shooters were able to carry out an orchestrated attack against specific predetermined targets, while leaving others so that they could gain entry into the facilities. Two have identified themselves, according to a witness, as Al-Qaeda operatives and have shown the ability to amass military style weapons, armament and training. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, their plan was so complete, they have yet to be caught. The gunmen were seen escaping into a black vehicle and going the Paris suburbs where they abandoned their car and jumped into another. The whole event exists to spell out a very clear message to many: Islamic terrorists have the power to make an attack against Western and they could do it again.
The West should not be fooled into an apathetic naivety over the ramifications of this event. This was not the work of crazed gunmen. This event took time to plan including target profiles and escape routes, logistical supplies to be managed, and probably involved intelligence and administrative coordination with many others in the Islamic terrorist networks. It should also be noted that the attack takes place, seemingly in response to the unexpected boldness of French bombing offensives in Syria and Iraq over the last few months. It spells yet another dark day in the continuing battle against Islamic terrorism, one which almost will almost surely repeat itself again.
This attack also comes just days after German demonstrators in four cities, protesting against Islamic radicalism and its increasing roles in the West were shut down by local officials. The demonstrators have been called “radicals and racists” to the point that and counter demonstrators have compared the groups to Nazis of the past. During the largest of their gatherings this week, power was cut to demonstration areas, disrupting those who gathered. Cologne Cathedral provost Norbert Felfhoff has been said that the shutting down of the lights was an attempt to make the group’s demonstrators “think twice” about their protest. When various news outlets aren’t even mentioning that today’s attacks against a French news and satire outlet were the work of Islamic fundamentalists, but peaceful demonstrators are shut down for being “xenophobic” I have to honestly wonder who in the European community needs to be thinking twice.
As for myself and others, I can only say that Americans truly empathize with the pain felt by the French and my heart goes out to my French friends on Quora and elsewhere. We’ve both lost many people to the senseless violence that is brought by jihadists. We lament your losses dearly. Today, we all bleed red, white, and blue, or to be more precise, blue, white, and red.
Jon Davis is a US Marine Corps veteran writer, focusing on the topics of US veterans and international defense. His work has been featured in Newsweek, Forbes, Gizmodo and elsewhere. He is also a writer of military science fiction with his first book, The Next War, due out early this year. You can follow Jon Davis via his personal blog Jon’s Deep Thoughts, and can support his writing via the web donation service, Patreon.