Illustration for article titled What We Know And What We Dont Know About The Paris Terror Attacks

What is clearly a well-planned, multiple-pronged terror attack has hammered locations around Paris tonight. Here is what we know and what we don’t know about the attacks.


[Update: Saturday, 4 a.m. EST:]


Now, as for what we don’t know:

  • Who is behind this attack? An ISIS affiliate is possible, but any terror group that has ability to train fighters capable of such an attack. [Update 10:30 a.m. EST: ISIS has in fact claimed responsibility for the attack. The group posted a message to its platforms on Saturday calling the attacks “the first of the storm.”]
  • Are there attackers still on the loose? What became of the attackers at each target? [Update 10:30 a.m. EST: At least eight of the attackers are dead from either suicide bombs or at the hands of police.]
  • What exactly was the timeline of events surrounding this attack? This will give a much better picture of the level of coordination, which is already clearly a quite a high one.
  • What were the nature of the weapons used? We know AK-47-like rifles were used in the theater, but what about the other attackers? Where did they come from as these rifles? They would have to have been smuggled into the country at some point in time. The more weaponry they had, including other possible weapons such as grenades, is an indication of how much external support they would have had.
  • Who were the attackers that were killed? What is their background and origin? Were they French citizens? Did they leave notes, videos or other documentation regarding their intent? Did they leave France recently or were they illegally in France? [Update 10:30 a.m. EST: The Guardian reports at least one of the terrorists was a Frenchman and known to police as an extremist, and Syrian and Egyptian passports were also reportedly found on the bodies of another attacker.]
  • What level of training did these terrorists have? This is important because it will show a threshold of experience that was required to execute such a complex series of attacks and it will show the methodology for executing such an operation.
  • What intelligence did the French or other sources have on these attackers? Were any signs missed before it happened?
  • Does this attack tie in with other operations, including the potential bombing of Metrojet 9268 and today’s bombing in Lebanon? If indeed this attack was brought on France by ISIS, it will signal a massive shift in that organization’s aims and capabilities. Al Qaeda also remains a grave threat in Europe, and such an attack, similar to those in Mumbai in 2008, could show a shift in tactics for them as well, going for hybrid small arms attacks combined with high-profile mass killings, albeit on a smaller scale than 9-11 type attacks.

This story is now being updated on this post:


Contact the author at Photos via AP.

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