Paris, Beirut And Baghdad: ISIS' Appetite For Global Destruction
16 November 2015
The busy hum of Parisian nightlife was tragically shattered on Friday evening
as gunshots and explosions pierced the cool evening. In a number of
coordinated, simultaneous attacks on the French capital -- the worst since
World War II -- 129 people were killed. ISIS quickly claimed the attacks who,
over the last 16 days have carried out two other deadly international
attacks, which some warn could be the start of a new deadly international
phase for the militant group.
As well as the attack on Paris, early on Friday, an ISIS militant blew
himself up at the funeral of a pro-government Shiite fighter in Baghdad,
killing at least 18 people and wounding 41. The group also claimed
responsibility for downing the Russian passenger jet over the Sinai peninsula
on October 31, and just the day before the Paris attack, the group claimed
the most deadly bombing in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, since the start of
the Syrian civil war.
As dusk was gathering in Beirut's Shiite majority area of the diverse
southern suburb of Burj al Berajneh on Thursday evening, two explosions tore
through the busy street. ''I was one of the first people to arrive [at the
site of the blast], people were carrying the wounded and dead,'' explains
local resident Hussain at the site of the explosion.
Hussein says the powerful second explosion – meters further along the street
than the first – had torn through the crowd gathering after the first blast.
''There were tons of people here, it was terrifying,'' he recalls. The two
blasts in Beirut killed at least 46 people and left more than 239 wounded.
Since the start of Syria's civil war there have been a number of bombings in
Lebanon. Many of these have targeted strong Hezbollah supporting areas -- the
powerful Shiite Lebanese paramilitary organization -- in retaliation for the
group's support of the embattled Syrian president.
However, Thursday's was the first explosion in the capital since June 2014.
Residents of Beirut are now concerned about a return to the situation
previous insecurity which saw eight bombs explode in 12 weeks at the end of
In Abu Ali's falafel shop, located one street from the blast site, customers
discussed the bombers and their intended targets. ''There were no (Hezbollah)
fighters killed,'' Abu Ali says, shaking his head. ''It was all women and
There was a palpable feeling of shock and sadness in Beirut following the
blasts. That grief was compounded when news of the attacks on Paris broke
while Lebanon was still observing a day of mourning.
Haxie Meyers-Belkin, a journalist for FRANCE 24, was on the scene of one of
the attack on La belle Équipe as the scenes in Paris unfolded. ''There was a
palpable sense of panic and confusion and we were there as reports from other
attacks came in, everyone knew that killers still on the loose. It was very
much unfolding crisis she explains. Meyers-Belkin says everyone seemed aware
it was something big happening but it took a while to understand just how
much disaster had been wrought.
In the wake of the attacks in Paris, there has been an international
outpouring of sympathy and sadness with communities around the world coming
out in support of the French people. Meanwhile in Paris, Meyers-Belkin
explains that the mood is one of sadness and grief, but that people had come
to the streets to feel a sense of community and togetherness. This, she says,
France does well in the face of tragic events, refereeing to the Charlie
Hebdo attacks in January. ''There is a somber mood punctuated by real
outpourings of grief as people cry and shout,'' she says. Meyers-Belkin adds
that people feel that this was, ''A targeted attack on French society, it was
an attack on progressive young Paris — The victims were of all colors, all
backgrounds and all nationalities as were those who came to the vigils.''
It is still too early to talk about the origin of the attackers in Paris or
Beirut explains Dr Edwin Bakker, Director of the Centre for Terrorism and
Counterterrorism of Leiden University in The Hague. That said he believes
that past experience will tell us a lot about the most recent attack in
France. ''My bet is that most of the attackers were born and raised in France
and hardly ever left the country and that one or two did, not three or
four.'' Bakker says he'd be concerned if that was not the case as it would be
very bad news for the reputation of the French secret service with all the
surveillance powers they have at their disposal. ''I would also be
uncomfortable as it goes against all my research,'' explains Bakker.
Bakker highlights how the long established tactic on the ground in Syria and
Iraq by which ISIS aggressively attacking any group that confronts them has
now gone global. ''In the last 10 days or so, three major opponents of ISIS
have been attacked – Hezbollah, Russia and now France'' explains Bakker.
Adding that this is despite the three having very different political stances
and views on ISIS. ''ISIS are simply striking out at everyone who attacks
them,'' says Bakker.
From Beirut to Paris to the Russian Metrojet Airbus, it is now clear that
ISIS have an appetite for global destruction.
''The thing that these three attacks all have in common is that they have
local handlers and local people [to carry them out]. As long as ISIS exist
and they have some power to direct and support people they have the most
important tool – local people wanting to do these horrible things for them.
That is a powerful asset and they seem to have that in abundance whether
that's in the Sinai, Lebanon or Europe,'' says Bakker.
On Saturday evening, Secretary General of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah gave a
speech to supporters in South Beirut. He took the opportunity to denounce the
attacks on Paris and highlight his groups roll on the ground in Syria
fighting against ISIS. Bakker is already looking to the geo-political
implications of the Paris attack saying that we might see a coming together
of different groups in the battle against ISIS. France has been one of the
strongest and earliest opponents of Assad regime, but Bakker says that this
attack could serve as a way to bring U.S., Russia and Europe closer together.
Many are now worried about further attacks on opponents of ISIS, as in Syria
and Iraq the group already has a very explicit policy of attacking any group
that stands against them. ''They have a very clear system and policy,'' says
Bakker, ''If they see an opportunity they will strike outside Syria, ISIS has
a global battlefield.''