ISIS reaps global wrath after Paris slaughter
BEIRUT - The war against the Islamic State (ISIS) is steadily escalating as shock waves from the bloodbath in Paris reverberate across the globe, with the Americans, Russians and French intensifying air strikes against jihadists in Syria while two suspected fugitives died in a Paris suburb.
ISIS has suffered critical setbacks in Syria and Iraq in recent days. But the devastating ferocity of its terrorist attacks in Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon and France over the last three weeks has triggered what looks like a whirlwind of revenge by the United States and Europe, as well as Russia, that may prove to be destructive.
France sent its aircraft carrier to the eastern Mediterranean, tripling its air power in the region.
On November 17th, Russia, seeking revenge for the bombing of an airliner over Egypt on October 31st that killed 224 people, hammered the ISIS caliphate’s de facto capital, the Syrian city of Raqqa, and dozens of other targets in Syria with cruise missiles fired from the navy cruiser Moskva in the Caspian Sea and by venerable Tu-95 long-range bombers, relics of the Cold War on their first combat missions.
The November 13th slaughter of 129 people, with hundreds more wounded, in Paris underlined how ISIS, long deemed a Middle Eastern problem, has gone global.
It is not clear why the ISIS leadership decided to take on the world but it fits the apocalyptic mindset of the Islamist zealots and strongly suggests that there will be more attacks outside the war zone in Syria and Iraq. The Paris attacks in particular had clearly been planned for some time, pre-dating ISIS’s recent reverses.
As French authorities pieced together what was an elaborate, meticulously planned assault on Paris, details emerged of how the operation by eight terrorists was based around an ISIS sleeper cell in neighbouring Belgium.
All eight attackers — seven of them dead — who have been identified were veterans of the war in Syria, a conflict that lies at the centre of the spreading violence.
This has heightened fears there are other sleeper cells waiting to strike.
France, the European nation hardest hit by Islamist terrorism since the 1990s rise of Algerian militancy led by veterans of the 1979-89 Afghanistan war, has gone onto a veritable war footing.
French President François Hollande announced tough anti-terrorist measures before a rare joint session of both houses of parliament on November 16th. “France is at war,” he declared, “but we are not engaged in a war of civilisations because these assassins do not represent any civilisation.”
French officials said the suspected mastermind of the Paris attacks, 27-year-old Belgian national and Syria war veteran Abdel-Hamid Abaaoud, was killed in a November 18th raid on an apartment building in St Denis, just north of Paris. Paris Prosecutor François Molin said Abaaoud was among two people who died during the raid. Another eight suspects were arrested.