Kill Them Wherever You Find Them

The following are the final messages of the nine lions of the Khalifah who were mobilized from their dens to bring an entire country – France – to her knees. This is how the latest release from Al-Hayat Media Center, the Islamic State’s foreign language propaganda arm, introduces viewers to the assailants that carried out last November’s terrorist attack in Paris. On Friday, 13 November, nine attackers targeted six separate locations across Paris, killing 130 and injuring another 368, roughly a third of them critically. As mentioned in a previous post, the events of 13 November made the attack the deadliest in France since World War II and may have been the deadliest attack in a Western city since 9/11. The attack began at 21:20 with a suicide bombing at the Stade de France, where French President Francois Hollande was in attendance to watch a soccer game against Germany. As two other suicide bombers targeted the stadium, another team of assailants shot up a bar and restaurant in the 10th district, near the Place de la Republique at  21:25 before moving on to target a cafe and pizzeria on rue de la Fontaine au Roi at 21:31. Another gun attack attack occurred on Rue de Charoone at 21:36, four minutes before a suicide bomber targeted Boulevard Voltaire. The deadliest attack began at 00:20 in the sold out 1,500 seat venue, Bataclan concert hall. Three attackers, wearing suicide belts, entered the concert hall, shooting indiscriminately with Kalashnikov assault rifles. When police stormed the building all three of the assailants managed to detonate their explosives. The machine gun fire and bombs resulted in the death of 98 people and the critical injury of another 99.

                                   The French banner for Kill Them Wherever You Find Them

Kill Them Wherever You Find Them portrays the nine attackers (Abul Qa’qa’ al-Baljiki, Dhul-Qarnayan al-Baljiki, Abu Fu’ad al-Farsani, Abu Rayyan al-Faransi, Abu ‘Umar al-Baljiki, Abu Qital al-Faransi, Ali al-Iraqi, ‘Ukasharh al-Iraqi, and Abu Mujaed al-Baljik) as heroes, defending their coreligionists in the face of external intervention by the West in what seems to be viewed by the assailants as both a religious war in the Muslim world and a cosmic battle against the Christian West. To drive this message home, the Islamic State-based members of the Paris cell are shown executing murtad, apostates, after their statements have been completed, a mark of cruelty that has come to define Islamic State media outputs. Interestingly, it is the foreign fighters that are tasked with beheading their hostages, while the Iraqi members merely shoot their victims to death. The attackers also embrace the term terrorist, using it proudly and calling upon their coreligionists in the West to carry out attacks, using any means available, a call that the Islamic State has echoed repeatedly, whether through its official spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani or individual Western members.

Abu Rayyan al-Faransi (Omar Ismail Mostefai), the last of the attackers to speak on film, highlights the importance of researchers understanding the legacy of jihadist thought. Aby Rayyan echoes Abdullah Azzam, the ideologue who spread the belief that jihad was fard ‘ayn (individually obligatory) when he calls on countrymen to emigrate to the Islamic State. While all of these facets of Kill Them Wherever You Find Them are important for further understanding the Islamic State, its ideology, goals and threat to the West, it is the release of the video itself that is the most important.

                                                 Mostefai claiming jihad is an individual duty

Kill Them Wherever You Find Them proves that the Paris attack was centrally directed by the higher echelons of the Islamic State, if not the group’s supposed Caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The fact that the video was released by Al-Hayat (the same outlet that releases the official Dabiq magazine and has produced a number of other high quality videos threatening the West) shows that the group played a much larger role than some previously had thought, and that the events in Paris were not merely inspired, with the Islamic State claiming responsibility after the fact, as it has done before. In fact, the first of the nine assailants to appear on film, Abu Qital al-Faransi, states, “I was sent by [Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi] to cleanse the earth of disbelievers. Once the beheading is finished, he states, “soon on the Champs de Elysee”.

What is more chilling is this latest release ends with a clip from British PM David Cameron’s address to the French people, standing in solidarity with them after the Paris attacks. A caption then comes across the screen: Whoever Stands in the Ranks of Kufr Will Be A Target for Our Swords And Will Fall In Humiliation. It is likely that the next plot orchestrated within the so-called Caliphate will be attempted in the United Kingdom.

Paris Attacks Radio Interview

On Saturday, November 14 I was asked by 580 CFRA News Talk Radio in Ottawa to comment on the attacks in Paris. Many of the details of the attack, including the identities of the perpetrators, were unknown at the time. While the Islamic State had claimed responsibility, it was unclear as to whether the group played a direct or indirect role in the worst attack in France since WWII and possibly the most deadly attack in a Western city after 9/11.

We now know that Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian national who had fought with ISIS in Syria, masterminded the November 13 attacks that saw nine militants claim the lives of 170 and injure another 368 people. Abaaoud, who grew up in the Molenbeek suburb of Brussels, an area known for terrorist activity, had escaped Belgian authorities in January 2014 after a raid in the city of Verviers resulted in the death of two suspected terrorists. According to an interview with Abaaoud in Dabiq, the Islamic State’s English-language magazine, he and the two deceased had returned to Belgium “to terrorize the crusaders waging war against the Muslims.” While it is not known whether Abaaoud had made it back to the Islamic State in Syria after the raid, as he had claimed in Dabiq, when the Belgian appeared again it was to carry out a sadistic attack on innocent civilians in Paris.

The events of November 13 have changed political calculations, reignited debates and, sadly, resulted in increased public displaces of bigotry. In Canada, the United States and elsewhere in the Western world, politicians have addressed public worries about Syrian refugees after authorities in France found a fake Syrian passport on the body of one of the assailants. Some of these politicians have taken calculated steps to ease these fears, others have played to the worst fringe, spewing hate and misconception. For the later and their constituencies, it should be important to remember that out of the 750,000 refugees that have been resettled in America since 9/11 not one has been arrested on domestic terrorism charges. Refugee policy is not the only issue up for debate, those over Islam have vehemently reemerged, with some arguing that the religion is the problem, while others have aptly pointed out that the situation is much more complex.

In the internationally realm Western leaders have been pressed to more thoroughly defend their anti-Islamic State strategy and play a bigger role in the fight. France and Russia have increased cooperation over the skies in Syria, a knee jerk reaction by the government of Francois Hollande. Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada has had to defend his government’s promise to end participation in the bombing mission, though the majority of Canadians want it continued or even expanded. Britain, whose government had previous voted against bombing the Syrian regime, has already launched its first airstrike in Syria, hours after UK lawmakers voted in favor . While much of the media has focused on the air, a debate over what should be done on the ground is of utmost importance.

I briefly addressed these and other issues in my interview with CFRA below.