Islamists use jihadist training for Paris attacks

Terrorism & Insurgency


Thousands of people gather at Republique Square in Paris on 11 January for a rally to honour the 17 victims of the terrorist attacks. On 14 January, AQAP claimed responsibility for the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo. Source: PA


Key Points


  • Three days of Islamist terrorist attacks from 7 to 9 January in France culminated in the deaths of 17 civilians and three terrorists, with links apparent between the attackers and external militant groups.
  • Characteristics of both a directed plot and ‘lone-wolf’ self-radicalisation were evident in the attacks, with two of the perpetrators acting on behalf of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and one pledging fealty to the Islamic State.
  • Initial assessment suggests that all of the attacks were planned and executed by the individuals themselves, utilising the skills and training they had received and their pre-existing militant Islamist network links.


Just before midday local time on 7 January in Paris, two masked men armed with AK-series assault rifles entered the office building of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and began shooting, while a third person remained outside. The attackers were subsequently identified as 32-year-old Chérif Kouachi and his brother, 34-year-old Saïd Kouachi, both French nationals of Algerian descent. They killed 11 people in the office, including four of the magazine’s well-known cartoonists and a police bodyguard, and wounded 11 others.


Approximately 10 minutes after entering the office, they re-emerged and shot at police in the street before fleeing in a getaway car, driven by a third, as yet unidentified, person. They then engaged police on two more occasions shortly afterwards, injuring and then killing one police officer, before fleeing towards northern Paris, where they hijacked a different vehicle near Porte de Pantin.


Two days later, on 9 January, after an extensive manhunt across the northeast of the country, security forces cornered the Kouachi brothers in a warehouse in Dammartin-en-Goële, north of Paris, leading to a stand-off that lasted several hours. During this time, French television channel BFM-TV contacted the assailants, who then claimed the attack had been directed and financed by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).


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