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Paris attacks raise questions about security, immigration

The deadly attacks that rocked Paris Friday night raise questions about how effective France's efforts have been to improve security following the Charlie Hebdo killings, and whether lawmakers there will change their tune on immigration in the face of Europe's refugee crisis.

Shootings, bombings in Paris that killed at least 129 could aggravate ethnic tensions

Police and other security forces have been a common sight in Paris since the deadly January 2015 attack on the satirical news magazine Charlie Hebdo. (Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters)

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  • ISIS claims responsiblity for attacks
  • Syrian passport reportedly found on body of 1 suicide bomber

The deadly attacks that rocked Paris on Friday night raise questions about how effective France's efforts have been to improve security following the Charlie Hebdo killings, and whether lawmakers there will change their position on immigration in the face of Europe's refugee crisis. 

Police and other security forces have been a common sight in Paris since the January 2015 attack on the satirical news magazine, drawing on a hard-earned reputation for fighting extremist violence.

"French security services have been dealing with terrorism since the 1960s," said Christian Leuprecht, an instructor with the Royal Military College of Canada. 

"But despite all the experience and the legislative framework, they were unable to prevent these attacks," Leuprecht told CBC News by phone from Lyon, France. 

"That suggests this type of attack could happen anywhere."

In a statement circulating online Saturday, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria claimed responsibility for the attacks, which killed 129 people and injured hundreds more through a series of seemingly co-ordinated shootings and explosions.

It said Paris is the "capital of prostitution and obscenity, the carrier of the banner of the Cross in Europe" while the attackers were "a faithful group of the soldiers of the caliphate."

Security expert on Paris attacks

7 years ago
Duration 1:52
'These multiple co-ordinated events sometimes also involve other cities, and that's of course the fear that everybody is paying close attention to,' Ray Boisvert says

The death toll dwarfs those of both the Charlie Hebdo attack (12 killed) last Jan. 7 and the double hostage-takings that followed just days later. 

France also saw an attempted shooting on a train that was foiled by passengers during the summer. 

French security is thought to have thwarted "between five and six attacks" this year, according to CBC foreign correspondent David Common, noting that France's intelligence community has "really strong connections" in North Africa and the Middle East, where ISIS and al-Qaeda draw much of their strength.

Other intelligence agencies turn to France's external spy agency, the DGSE, for help in those regions, said Common, who was stationed in Paris for many years. 

But "this is a big one, a really big one," he noted. "The question, of course, is how was it not noticed? How were the individuals behind this able to gather?" 

It's possible, he said, that French security was overwhelmed — a number of French-born Muslims have gone abroad to fight for ISIS and, as anti-terror efforts at home have ramped up, the country's prisons "have become centres of radicalization." 

Officials have "not done a terribly good job … of trying to stop that radicalization," Common said.

French police officials were quoted on Saturday as saying a Syrian passport was found on the body of one of the suicide bombers at the Stade de France.

Ethnic friction

France's response will have to be carefully measured to prevent isolating, and perhaps further radicalizing, members of its Muslim community, Common said. 

"I'm struck wondering how French society ensures it doesn't go so overboard against one particular group of its population that it further isolates people that, in some ways, are already isolated in French society." 

The attacks are a reminder of France's "longstanding ethnic friction" and could shift its attitude on immigration and Europe's ongoing refugee crisis according to the U.S.-based think-tank Stratfor. 

The attacks can be expected to bolster the popularity of right-wing politicians and "those groups that have been calling for a halt in the flow of immigrants," Stratfor said in a note issued Friday night. 

But the attacks also stand to bolster France's commitment in the fight against ISIS, the organization said. 

Stratfor noted the attacks came just days before France's only aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, is due to sail for the Persian Gulf for actions against ISIS. 

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