Every New Yorker and Londoner will instinctively understand what Parisians are going through this morning: a combination of shock, horror, disorientation and fear for the future.
Yet the memory of the terror attacks of 2001 in New York and 2005 in London also demonstrates the resilience of great cities. They can bounce back from acts of terror, with surprising speed and vigour. To say that terrorists will not “beat Paris” is not a statement of defiance. It is simply a statement of fact.
Paris is a city whose history, often violent and shocking, is ever present. There are memories of revolutions, massacres, wars and occupation everywhere — not just in museums, but in street names and in the very architecture of the city. Through it all, Paris has become a byword for beauty, serenity and creativity.
But while there can be no doubt that Paris will bounce back, it is also true that this attack comes at a particularly sensitive moment in the history of both France and Europe.
It was just 10 months ago that Paris was the victim of the murderous attacks at Charlie Hebdo magazine and on a Jewish supermarket that brought millions out on to the streets in defiant demonstration. But the death toll from these latest attacks is much higher. The fact that a second wave has come so soon after the Charlie Hebdo atrocity will also heighten the sense of insecurity.
The immediate political questions concern French involvement in the Middle East, as well as the impact of the attack on next month’s regional elections. The terrorists are reported to have shouted comments about the war in Syria. France launched its first air strikes on the militant jihadis of Isis in Syria in September, and has been involved in bombing raids on the group in Iraq for many months. It is highly unlikely that President François Hollande will respond to the terror attacks by calling off French involvement in the war on Isis. Indeed, in the short term, an intensification of military involvement is more likely.
The reaction of French voters in next month’s regional elections will be watched closely. Opinion polls were already suggesting that Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front, will win in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region; her niece, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, has also topped some polls in the Provence region in the south. The National Front, which has a long history of hostility to Muslim immigration and which has also argued for the restoration of frontier controls, may well benefit in the aftermath of the attacks. Some of its arguments were, in any case, already seeping into the discourse of the traditional centre-right parties.
Simon Kuper in the Stade de France
Tonight my family will probably be OK in Paris. But after that?
The terror attacks in Paris also come at a time when Europe is in the midst of a “migrant crisis”. With Germany set to receive more than 1m refugees this year — most of them from the war-torn Middle East — the domestic pressure on Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, to close her country’s borders to new migrants was already mounting. Even before the Paris attacks, Sweden — which has taken more migrants per head than any other EU country — had announced a partial closure of its borders to new refugees, albeit as a temporary measure. In the aftermath of Paris, Ms Merkel will surely be tempted to take a similar measure, easing the political and social pressure on her government. But she will also be aware of the dangerous knock-on effects such an action could have on Balkan countries further down the migrant route.
The precise origins of the terrorists (which are not yet known as I write on Saturday morning) will certainly change the post-attack debate. However, if and when the assumed connection to Islamist terror movements is fleshed out, the debate over western policy in the Middle East will intensify but will not necessarily be clarified.
One possible consequence would be for western policy to focus even more tightly on the defeat of the jihadis of Isis while playing down subsidiary goals, such as the removal of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. But France has been at the forefront of those countries arguing that Mr Assad is at the centre of the problem of Syria. A complete reversal of the anti-Assad policy seems unlikely in the coming weeks.
What is more likely is that policy will evolve in the coming months, as the impact, lessons and sheer shock of the Paris terror attacks is absorbed.
Listen to this article
|November 2015 Paris attacks|
|Part of Terrorism in France (Islamic terrorism in Europe (2014–present)), the Spillover of the Syrian Civil War, and the France-ISIL conflict|
Locations of the attacks. Stars denote suicide bombings.
|Location||Paris and Saint-Denis, France|
|Date||21:16, 13 November 2015 (2015-11-13T21:16) –|
00:58, 14 November 2015 (2015-11-14T00:58) (CET)
|Mass shooting, suicide bombing, hostage taking|
|Deaths||137 (130 victims, 7 perpetrators)|
|413 (80–99 critically)|
|Perpetrators||Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant|
No. of participants
|Motive||Islamic extremism, retaliation against French airstrikes on ISIL|
The November 2015 Paris attacks were a series of coordinated terrorist attacks that occurred on Friday, 13 November 2015 in Paris, France and the city's northern suburb, Saint-Denis. Beginning at 21:16 CET, three suicide bombers struck outside the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, during a football match. This was followed by several mass shootings and a suicide bombing, at cafés and restaurants. Gunmen carried out another mass shooting and took hostages at an Eagles of Death Metal concert in the Bataclan theatre, leading to a stand-off with police. The attackers were shot or blew themselves up when police raided the theatre.
The attackers killed 130 people, including 89 at the Bataclan theatre. Another 413 people were injured, almost 100 seriously. Seven of the attackers also died, while the authorities continued to search for accomplices. The attacks were the deadliest on France since the Second World War, and the deadliest in the European Union since the Madrid train bombings in 2004. France had been on high alert since the January 2015 attacks on Charlie Hebdo offices and a Jewish supermarket in Paris that killed 17 people and wounded 22, including civilians and police officers.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying that it was retaliation for the French airstrikes on ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq. The President of France, François Hollande, said the attacks were an act of war by ISIL. The attacks were planned in Syria and organised by a terrorist cell based in Belgium. Most of the Paris attackers had French or Belgian citizenship, two were Iraqis, and all had fought in Syria. Some of them had entered Europe among the flow of migrants and refugees.
In response to the attacks, a three-month state of emergency was declared across the country to help fight terrorism, which involved the banning of public demonstrations, and allowing the police to carry out searches without a warrant, put anyone under house arrest without trial and block websites that encouraged acts of terrorism. On 15 November, France launched the biggest airstrike of Opération Chammal, its contribution to the anti-ISIL bombing campaign, striking ISIL targets in Raqqa. On 18 November, the suspected lead operative of the attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was killed in a police raid in Saint-Denis, along with two others.
See also: Terrorism in France and Foreign involvement in the Syrian Civil War § France
France had been on high alert for terrorism since the Charlie Hebdo shooting and a series of related attacks in January by militants belonging to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and had increased security in anticipation of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, scheduled to be held in Paris at the beginning of December, as well as reinstating border checks a week before the attacks.
Throughout 2015, France witnessed smaller attacks: the February stabbing of three soldiers guarding a Jewish community centre in Nice, the June attempt to blow up a factory in Saint-Quentin Fallavier, and the August shooting and stabbing attack on a passenger train.
The Bataclan theatre had been threatened a number of times by pro-Palestinian activists because of its public support for Israel. Two Jewish brothers, Pascal and Joël Laloux, owned the Bataclan for more than 40 years before selling it in September 2015. In 2011, a group calling itself Army of Islam told French security services they had planned an attack on the Bataclan because its owners were Jewish.
In the weeks leading up to the Paris attacks, ISIL and its branches had claimed responsibility for several other attacks: the downing of Metrojet Flight 9268 on 31 October and the suicide bombings in Beirut on 12 November.
Intelligence agencies in Turkey, Iraq, and Israel had all warned of an imminent attack on France months beforehand, but were ignored by the French authorities.
Timeline of attacks
- 21:16[note 1] – First suicide bombing near the Stade de France.
- 21:19[note 1] – Second suicide bombing near the Stade de France.
- 21:25 – Shooting at the rue Bichat.
- 21:32 – Shooting at the rue de la Fontaine-au-Roi.
- 21:36 – Shooting at the rue de Charonne.
- 21:40 – Suicide bombing on boulevard Voltaire.
- 21:40 – Three men enter the Bataclan theatre and begin shooting.
- 21:53 – Third suicide bombing near the Stade de France.
- 22:00 – Hostages are taken at the Bataclan.
- 00:20 – Security forces enter the Bataclan.
- 00:58 – French police end the siege on the Bataclan.
All times are CET (UTC+1).
Three groups of men launched six distinct attacks: three suicide bombings in one attack, a fourth suicide bombing in another attack, and shootings at four locations in four separate attacks. Shootings were reported in the vicinity of the rue Alibert, the rue de la Fontaine-au-Roi, the rue de Charonne, the Bataclan theatre, and avenue de la République. Three explosions occurred near the Stade de France, another on boulevard Voltaire, and two of the Bataclan shooters also detonated their suicide vests as police ended the stand-off. According to the Paris prosecutor, the attackers wore suicide vests that used acetone peroxide as an explosive.
Stade de France explosions
Three explosions occurred near the country's national sports stadium, the Stade de France, in the suburb of Saint-Denis, resulting in four deaths, including the three suicide bombers. The explosions happened at 21:16, 21:19,[note 1] and 21:53. The first explosion near the stadium was about 20 minutes after the start of an international friendly football match between France and Germany, which President Hollande was attending. The first bomber was prevented from entering the stadium after a security guard patted him down and discovered the suicide vest; a few seconds after being turned away, he detonated the vest, killing himself and a bystander. Investigators later surmised that the first suicide bomber had planned to detonate his vest within the stadium, triggering the crowd's panicked exit onto the streets where two other bombers were lying in wait. Ten minutes after the first bombing, the second bomber blew himself up near the stadium.[note 1] Another 23 minutes after that, the third bomber's vest detonated nearby; according to some reports, that location was at a McDonald's restaurant; others state that the bomb detonated some distance away from any discernible target.
Hollande was evacuated from the stadium at half-time, while the German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, remained at the stadium. Hollande met with his interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve to co-ordinate a response to the emergency. Two of the explosions were heard on the live televised broadcast of the match;[note 1] both football coaches were informed by French officials of a developing crisis, but players and fans were kept unaware of it until the game had finished. Hollande, concerned that the safety of the crowd outside the stadium could not be assured if the match was immediately cancelled, decided that the game should continue without a public announcement.
Following the game, fans were brought onto the pitch to await evacuation as police monitored all the exits around the venue. Security sources said all three explosions were suicide bombings. The German national football team was advised not to return to their hotel, where there had been a bomb threat earlier in the day, and they spent the night in the stadium on mattresses, along with the French team, who stayed with them in a display of camaraderie.
Restaurant shootings and bombing
Rues Bichat and Alibert
The first shootings occurred around 21:25 on the rue Bichat and the rue Alibert, near the Canal Saint-Martin in the 10th arrondissement. Attackers shot at people outside Le Carillon, a café and bar, before crossing the rue Bichat and shooting people inside the restaurant Le Petit Cambodge. According to French police, an eyewitness said one of the gunmen shouted "Allahu Akbar".Le Monde reported that 15 people were killed at these locations and 10 were critically injured. The assailants fled in one or two vehicles after the shootings. One vehicle had a Belgian number plate. Doctors and nurses from the nearby Hôpital Saint-Louis were in Le Carillon when the attacks happened and supplied emergency assistance to the wounded.
Rue de la Fontaine-au-Roi
At 21:32, a man with a Kalashnikov rifle fired shots outside Café Bonne Bière, close to the terrace of the Italian restaurant La Casa Nostra, on the rue de la Fontaine-au-Roi where it intersects with the rue du Faubourg-du-Temple south of the rue Bichat. The Paris prosecutor said five people were killed and eight were injured. An eyewitness reported a gunman firing short bursts.
Rue de Charonne
At approximately 21:36, two gunmen fired shots for several minutes at the outdoor terrace of the restaurant La Belle Équipe on the rue de Charonne in the 11th arrondissement where it intersects the rue Faidherbe, before returning to their car and driving away. Nineteen people were killed, and nine were left in critical condition.
Boulevard Voltaire bombing
At about 21:40, on the boulevard Voltaire in the 11th arrondissement, near the place de la Nation, a man sat down in the Comptoir Voltaire café and placed an order before detonating his suicide vest, killing himself and injuring fifteen people, one of them seriously.
Bataclan theatre massacre
At approximately 21:40, a mass shooting and hostage-taking occurred at the Bataclan theatre on the boulevard Voltaire in the 11th arrondissement. The American band Eagles of Death Metal was playing to an audience of around 1,500 people. About an hour into the concert, a car pulled up outside the venue and three dark-clad men with AKM assault rifles entered the hall. As the band began playing their song "Kiss the Devil", witnesses heard shouts of "Allahu Akbar" just before the gunmen took up positions on the mezzanine and opened fire on the crowd. Initially, the audience mistook the gunfire for pyrotechnics. The attack lasted 20 minutes, and witnesses also reported seeing the attackers throw hand grenades into the crowd. A radio reporter attending the concert described the attackers as calm and determined, telling CNN they had reloaded three or four times. Survivors escaped via the emergency exit into the street or made their way onto the roof, with some taking refuge in toilets and offices; others lay still on the floor pretending to be dead. According to surviving eyewitnesses, the terrorists walked among those who were lying down, kicked them and shot them in the head if there was any sign of life. They reloaded their weapons several times and laughed while shooting at people who tried to run for the exit while they were reloading. The band's members escaped without injury.
Around 22:00, the attackers took 60–100 concertgoers hostage as police gathered outside the venue. They threatened to decapitate a hostage and throw the corpse out of the window every five minutes. A witness who escaped told a journalist that the gunmen had mentioned Syria. One witness in the Bataclan heard a gunman say, "This is because of all the harm done by Hollande to Muslims all over the world." There were further attacks on police and first responders who arrived at the scene.
Starting at 22:15, the Brigade of Research and Intervention (BRI) arrived on the scene, followed by the elite tactical unit, RAID. The assault on the theatre began at 00:20 and lasted three minutes. Police launched the assault because of reports that the attackers had started killing hostages. They initially estimated that 100 people had been killed, but the toll was revised to 89. Two attackers died by detonating their suicide vests. Another was hit by police gunfire and his vest blew up when he fell. Identification and removal of the bodies took 10 hours, a process made difficult because some audience members had left their identity papers in the theatre's cloakroom.
See also: Brussels ISIL terror cell
Three groups, comprising three men each, executed the attacks. They wore explosive vests and belts with identical detonators. Seven perpetrators died at the scenes of their attacks. The other two were killed five days later during the Saint-Denis police raid.
On 14 November, ISIL claimed responsibility for the attacks. François Hollande said ISIL organised the attacks with help from inside France. Claimed motives were an ideological objection to Paris as a capital of abomination and perversion, retaliation for airstrikes on ISIL in Syria and Iraq, and the foreign policy of Hollande in relation to Muslims worldwide. Shortly after the attacks, ISIL's media organ, the Al-Hayat Media Group, launched a website on the dark web extolling the organisation and recommending the encrypted instant messaging service Telegram.
Fabien Clain released an audio recording the day before the attacks in which he personally claimed responsibility for the attacks. Clain is known to intelligence services as a veteran jihadist belonging to ISIL, and of French nationality.
Syrian and Egyptian passports were found near the bodies of two of the perpetrators at two attack sites, but Egyptian authorities said the passport belonged to a victim, Aleed Abdel-Razzak, and not one of the perpetrators. By 16 November, the focus of the French and Belgian investigation turned to Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the radical jihadist they believed was the leader of the plot. Abaaoud, a Belgian of Berber-Moroccan origin, had escaped to Syria after having been suspected in other plots in Belgium and France, including the thwarted 2015 Thalys train attack. Abaaoud had recruited an extensive network of accomplices, including two brothers, Brahim Abdeslam and Salah Abdeslam, to execute terrorist attacks; Abaaoud was killed in the Saint-Denis raid on 18 November.
Most of the Paris attackers were French and Belgian citizens who crossed borders without difficulty, albeit registered as terrorism suspects. Two other attackers were Iraqi. According to the French prime minister, Manuel Valls, several of the perpetrators had exploited Europe's immigration crisis to enter the continent undetected. At least some, including the alleged leader Abdelhamid Abaaoud, had visited Syria and returned radicalised. Jean-Charles Brisard, a French expert on terrorism, called this a change of paradigm, in that returning European citizens were themselves the attackers. The Los Angeles Times reported that more than 3,000 Europeans have travelled to Syria and joined ISIL and other radical groups.
Search for accomplices
Three cars were recovered in Paris after the attacks:
- A grey Volkswagen Polo with Belgian licence plates abandoned near the Bataclan was hired by a French citizen living in Belgium and contained a parking ticket from the town of Molenbeek.
- A SEAT was found in the Paris suburb of Montreuil on 15 November and contained assault rifles.
- A Renault Clio hired by Salah Abdeslam was discovered near Montmartre on 11 November and contained assault rifles.
Police described Salah, a 26-year-old Belgian citizen, as dangerous, and warned the public not to approach him. He was arrested on 18 March 2016 during an anti-terrorist raid in the Molenbeek area of Brussels (see below). His brother, Brahim, died in the attacks. Another brother, Mohamed, was detained on 14 November in the Molenbeek area of Brussels and released after several hours of questioning. Mohamed said he did not suspect his siblings of planning anything.
On 14 November, a car was stopped at the Belgium–France border and its three occupants were questioned then released. Three more people were arrested in Molenbeek. Links to the attacks were investigated in an arrest in Germany on 5 November, when police stopped a 51-year-old man from Montenegro and found automatic handguns, hand grenades and explosives in his car.
On 15–16 November, French tactical police units raided over 200 locations in France, arresting 23 people and seizing weapons. Another 104 people were placed under house arrest.
On 17 November, police followed a female cousin of the attacker and ringleader, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, to a block of flats in Saint-Denis where they saw Abaaoud with her. The next day, police raided a flat in Saint-Denis, and Abaaoud was killed in the ensuing gunfight, which lasted several hours. Chakib Akrouh, one of the perpetrators of the restaurant shootings, also died during the raid after detonating an explosive vest. Eight suspected militants were arrested at or near the flat.
On 23 November, an explosive belt was found in a litter bin in the Paris suburb of Montrouge. It may have been discarded by Salah Abdeslam, whose phone records showed that he was in Montrouge on the night of the attacks.
On 24 November, five people in Belgium had been charged on suspicion of their involvement in the Paris attacks, and Belgian prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for Mohamed Abrini, a 30-year-old suspected accomplice of Salah Abdeslam. Abrini was subsequently reported to have been arrested on 8 April 2016. He is also suspected of having been involved in the 2016 Brussels bombings.
On 9 December, two ISIL militants accompanying two of the Paris attackers into Europe, all masquerading as migrants, were arrested in Greece weeks before the attacks. In July 2016, a third militant involved was also arrested despite regular activity on Facebook from Belgium. The three militants were part of a unit intended to carry out further attacks on 13 November, but their plans were apparently disrupted by the first two arrests.
An accomplice made phone calls to Birmingham, England, just prior to the day of the attacks.
Fabien Clain was identified as the person reading the ISIL claim of responsibility. Clain is a French national who served 5 years from 2009 to 2014 in a French prison for recruiting fighters to go to Syria for jihad. Clain has been linked to other executed and planned terror attacks and is seen as a leader of known terrorists.
Jawad Bendaoud was arrested 18 November 2015 for "criminal criminal terrorist association for the purpose of committing violent action", as he provided lodging for Abaaoud, Hasna Aït Boulahcen, and a third man. In September 2017, the prosecuting judge filed for Bendaoud's trial for "concealment of terrorist criminals", a charge with a maximum penalty of six years.
Analysis of tactics
Michael Leiter, former director of the United States National Counterterrorism Center, said the attacks demonstrated a sophistication not seen in a city attack since the 2008 Mumbai attacks and that it would change how the West regards the threat. Further comparisons were made between the Paris attacks and the Mumbai attacks.Mumbai Police Joint Commissioner (Law and Order) Deven Bharti pointed out the similarities as having several targets, shooting indiscriminately, and the use of improvised explosive devices. According to Bharti, one key difference was that the Mumbai attacks lasted several days, and the Paris attackers killed themselves as soon as capture seemed imminent. Evidence points to the attackers having regularly used unencrypted communications during the planning of the attack.
The attackers killed 130 victims and injured between 352 and 368, with 80 to 99 taken to hospital in serious condition. Hours before the attacks, Paris’s doctors had practiced a mass shooting emergency response rehearsal. Of the dead, 89 died at the Bataclan theatre, 19 at La Belle Équipe, 15 at Le Carillon and Le Petit Cambodge, 5 at Café Bonne Bière and La Casa Nostra, and 1 at Stade de France.. Among those who died at the Bataclan were a music critic of Les Inrockuptibles, an executive of Mercury Records France, and the merchandise manager of Eagles of Death Metal, the band that was performing. Some people suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Main article: Reactions to the November 2015 Paris attacks § Popular reactions
The hashtag#portesouvertes ("open doors") was used by Parisians to offer shelter to those afraid to travel home after the attacks.
As had been the case in January after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, the Place de la République became a focal point of mourning, memorial, and tributes. An impromptu memorial also developed near the Bataclan theatre. On 15 November, two days after the attacks, a memorial service was held at Notre Dame Cathedral, presided over by the Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, with several political and religious figures in attendance.
Muslim organisations in France, such as the Union of Islamic Organisations of France, strongly condemned the attacks in Paris. The attacks affected business at high-profile venues and shopping centres in Paris, and many Parisians were concerned the attacks might lead to a marginalisation of Muslims in the city. There was not the same call for solidarity with Islam, as in January, following the attacks. Sales of the French flag, which the French had rarely displayed prior to the attacks, increased dramatically after the attacks.
On 4 December, the Bonne Bière café reopened, adorned by a banner with the defiant slogan "Je suis en terrasse" ("I'm on the Terrace"). A street cleaner told France 24 that the city had removed six truckloads of wilted flowers and several kilograms of candles from memorials placed around this and the other shooting scenes: "We didn't really want to get rid of things, but it feels a bit like a cemetery with all the flowers."
President Hollande issued a statement asking the French people to remain strong in the face of the attacks. He also visited the Bataclan theatre and vowed to "mercilessly" fight against terrorism. Hollande chaired an emergency meeting of the French Cabinet that night and directed his national security council to meet the next morning. The authorities urged the residents of Paris to stay indoors for their own safety and declared a state of emergency. Hollande cancelled his trip to the 2015 G-20 Antalya summit because of the attacks, instead sending Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Finance Minister Michel Sapin as his representatives. On 14 November, Hollande announced three days of national mourning. On 17 November, Hollande convened a special Congress of the French Parliament to address the attack and lay out legislative and diplomatic plans he wanted to take in response to them. These proposals included an extension of the state of emergency for three months, changes to the French constitution, one of which would enable France to protect itself from dual citizens who might pose a risk, and an increase in military attacks against ISIL.
On 4 December 2015, the French government published a guide in form of a cartoon on how to survive a terrorist attack. The guide is to be posted in public places and be available online.
In August 2016 minister of the interior Bernard Cazeneuve stated that about 20 radicalised mosques and further than some 80 hate preachers had been expelled from France since 2012.
On 15 November, the French Air Force launched the biggest airstrike of Opération Chammal, its bombing campaign against ISIL, sending 10 aircraft to drop 20 bombs on Raqqa, the city where ISIL is based.