French Manhunt and Airstrikes Continue after Attack

French police raids continue today, as does the manhunt for people involved in Friday’s attacks. Police are still looking for Salah Abdeslam, a French citizen believed to have been involved in the attack. The mastermind of the attack, who has been identified as Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian citizen with strong ties to the Islamic State’s ...


French police raids continue today, as does the manhunt for people involved in Friday’s attacks. Police are still looking for Salah Abdeslam, a French citizen believed to have been involved in the attack. The mastermind of the attack, who has been identified as Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian citizen with strong ties to the Islamic State’s leadership, also remains at large. France has mobilized 115,000 security personnel across the country and President Francois Hollande has declared a state of emergency that could be extended up to three months. Hollande has also suggested introducing new counterterrorism laws.

France has also continued airstrikes on the Islamic State’s de facto capital of Raqqa, targeting a command post and training camp, according to the French military. “It is not about containing but about destroying that organization,” Hollande said in a speech before the parliament. “They are not out of our reach.” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made a surprise visit to Paris. After meeting with Hollande, he told reporters, “We agreed to exchange more information and I’m convinced that over the course of the next weeks, Daesch will feel greater pressure. They are feeling it today. They felt it yesterday. They felt it in the past weeks. We gained more territory. Daesch has less territory.”

Russia Says Metrojet Brought Down by Bomb, Promises “Retribution”

Russia has concluded that the Metrojet crash in the Sinai Peninsular on Oct. 31 was caused by “a homemade bomb containing up to 1 kilogram of TNT,” Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Russia’s FSB security service said. “Our air force’s military work in Syria must not simply be continued,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said. “It must be intensified in such a way that the criminals understand that retribution is inevitable.” A source in the French government told Reuters that Russian warplanes launched airstrikes on Raqqa on Tuesday. Egyptian authorities arrested two employees at the Sharm el-Sheikh airport suspected of possibly smuggling the bomb aboard the plane.

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  • U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad al-Hussein condemned the anti-immigrant and anti-refugee backlash occurring in response to the Paris attacks; Australia has not shifted its position resettling refugees and the first of 12,000 due to be resettled are set to arrive in the country today.


  • Yemeni President Abdurabbou Mansour Hadi returned to Aden today from Saudi Arabia; he had previously returned to Yemen after fleeing the country at the outbreak of the recent war, but fled again in September after an attack on the government’s headquarters in Aden.


  • Syrian government fighters retook the town of al-Hadath in western Syria and is advancing other nearby Islamic State-held towns.


  • Tunisian officials said they have arrested 17 people believed to be part of a cell planning a terrorist attack in Sousse, the site of an attack on a tourist beach in June.


  • Israel summoned Swedish Ambassador Margot Wallstrom to clarify comments comparing the attacks perpetrated in France to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; on Monday, the Israeli Foreign Ministry called the comments “appallingly impudent.”

Arguments and Analysis

Egypt’s Rising Security Threat” (Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy)

“Indeed, the evolutions in Egypt’s violence, in the refinement of terror groups’ strategy, and in sophistication of their media are undoubtedly tied to the presence and growth of other transnational extremist movements, whether directly or indirectly. The success of these groups has allowed them to provide both direct support to their Egyptian counterparts and inspiration as they demonstrate the ‘victory’ of violence in delivering on stated political goals. For example, prior to summer 2014, when their relationship with the Islamic State was developing, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis did not use social media to advertise their activities. Not even a year later, attack reports were published following a standard template in the same style as those of the Islamic State (and published via the Islamic State’s centralized media outlets). The group began to carry out beheadings (condemned by Ayman al-Zawahiri, with whom the group was previously affiliated), and in August 2015 they announced their intent to kill Croatian Tomislav Salopek. Wearing the orange jumpsuit reminiscent of similar executions in Iraq, Syria, and Libya, militants beheaded Salopek when their demands to release all female Muslim prisoners were not met. Finally, although they have not fully embraced the provision of services, Wilayat Sinai has produced propaganda showing their distribution of food and other resources to ‘the people,’ mirroring Islamic State-style governance.”


To Beat ISIS, Focus on Economic Reforms” (Nathan Field, The Arabist)

“Third, while the Syrian Civil War is the immediate short-term cause for the appearance of ISIS, it is not the cause of populist utopian extremism, which was occurring in Egypt and Saudi Arabia long before the Arab Spring. In 2009, I co-authored a study on Salafi Satellite TV in Egypt, attempting to understand the sudden emergence of ultra-conservative Islamic TV stations that emerged in Egypt around 2007. These stations were widely believed to be the most watched programming of any kind in Egypt. We found their popularity was clearly linked to the liberalization of the economy, and that they were most watched by those on the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum. There is not a huge jump between the contents of these programs and what we see in ISIS today.  Salafis of the pre-Arab Spring Egypt period were “quietist” as a matter of pragmatism, not because of a permanent ideological belief in the utility of doing so. As one well-known Egyptian scholar of Islamism predicted to me in 2009 ‘Egyptian Salafists will eventually split: one group will move towards the Islamic centrism of al-Qaradawi and the political activism of the Ikhwan, while a second will embrace Salafi jihad.’ And if the Syrian Civil War has presented a natural cause for Islamists to rally around, especially when it is framed more nobly as “defending the Syrian people,” less honorable anti-Shia and ugly sectarian sentiment was a fundamental theme of Islamist media in the decade before the Arab Spring. So while some kind of settlement to the Syrian Civil War is desperately needed, extremist of the ISIS variety won’t go away just because that conflict ends.”

-J. Dana Stuster


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