Yet again, we are reminded of the brutal reality of terrorism. On Wednesday, January 7, 2015, at least 12 people were killed in Paris, in an attack on French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. Charlie Hebdo is known for its publication of controversial cartoons of well-known figures. Over a long period, they have published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Most recently, they published a cartoon of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State.
On January 7, 2015, three gunmen, one of whom shouted “Allah Akbar” (God is great) forced their way into the office of Charlie Hebdo and committed their heinous attack. At the end of the carnage, 10 staffers and two police officers were killed and 20 other individuals were wounded.
As the shock and fast paced investigation unfolds, let me share my preliminary observations:
- The three attackers planned their attack. It would appear they followed the terrorist attack cycle including the steps of conducting surveillance and planning their attack. With a police presence in front of Charlie Hebdo’s office and the manner of gaining entry to the office by forcing an employee at gun point to open the door, they orchestrated and planned their actions
- The manner in which the attackers proceeded indicates they received training, likely at a foreign terrorist training camp
- A financial and communications investigation will definitively link the attack to a terrorist organization
As I’m writing this article, I just heard radio reports that the three subjects were captured. Two are in custody. The third is dead. Now the real work begins.
A full investigation must ensue. One of the most important components of the investigation should be to establish a timeline of finance and communication, from the point of capture back as far as possible. Finance and communications are the biggest vulnerabilities of terrorists. By establishing a finance and communication timeline, investigators will probably establish links to the terrorist group responsible for the attack.
Early reports indicated that a terrorist group in Yemen was responsible for the attack. This would be al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Before the Islamic State took center stage, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was considered the biggest threat to the West.
There will be a rush to chase the bullets and bombs. The real path to the origin of this attack will be through following finance and communications.