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.
- It is not clear if six or seven separate targets were hit. Regardless of that number, we know the operation included suicide attacks at the Stade de France stadium during a soccer match against Germany, cafes in the tenth and eleventh districts of Paris, and at the Bataclan Theater. These are reportedly all the locations, including the ones that have not been otherwise disclosed:
- President François Hollande was in attendance at the soccer match, he was whisked away to a safe place immediately after the attack. At least four people died in the attacks on the soccer stadium.
- The American rock band Eagles of Death Metal were playing in the Bataclan Theater. The attackers were said to enter the theater with AK-47s and black outfits, their faces were not covered occurring to reports. Terrorists were indiscriminately killing those in the theater, with dozens of bodies scattered around the auditorium. French counter-terror assault teams used ladders to access the theater and have since neutralized the threats inside according to reports (although it’s possible the attackers killed themselves with suicide vests). [Update: While it was originally reported that over 100 people were killed at the theater, that number has been revised down to closer to 80 as of Saturday morning.]
- Three out of four theater attackers killed in the assault team’s raid detonated suicide belts. It remains unclear if any of the attackers are thought to have gotten away or if four was the total number involved from the start of the assault.
- At least two restaurants were also hit, with deaths reported at both locations. One is said to have been the Cambodian restaurant La Petit Cambodge, where AK-47 fire killed 14 and injured 20. All the attacks aside from the stadium attack, which could have been a diversion to separate and stress counter-terror response resources, do not appear to be chosen for any clear reason, instead focusing on vibrant areas of Paris.
- France has greatly tightened its borders and is in the process of deploying French military troops around Paris.
- As of 8:15 a.m. EST, more than 120 people had been confirmed dead in the multi-pronged attack, though that number could change and others are reporting different numbers.
[Update: Saturday, 4 a.m. EST:]
- Major attractions and much of Paris as a whole will be shut down Saturday, including schools, libraries, museums, swimming pools, food markets and other public facilities, as well as Disneyland Paris. Most large events have also been canceled, including a U2 concert that was scheduled for Saturday.
- Although French law enforcement officials believe all eight attackers that executed the attacks are dead, there is a full-on hunt underway for accomplices, facilitators and potential safe houses related to the attacks.
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 Tyler@jalopnik.com. Photos via AP.