Paris, “the City of Lights,” is currently illuminated by flickering candles. The candles, along with flowers and other items, are memorial decorations at the various sites where three hours of carnage by terrorists transpired Friday evening. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the rampage.
There are reportedly 129 fatalities and more than 350 wounded. According to French officials, there were three teams of terrorists who almost simultaneously targeted a half dozen sites, none more horrific than the 89 slain in the massacre at a concert at the Bataclan.
Not since the bombings in Madrid in 2004, where 191 people were killed, has Europe been rocked by such a horrific terrorist attack.
“The situation here is very sad, and the city is on edge,” said Thierry Fournet in a telephone interview Sunday evening. Fournet is a journalist and filmmaker who recently returned to his home in France after a brief visit to the states. “This time the situation is different from the one in January, when they attacked Charlie Hebdo, the satirical paper. [Seventeen people were killed at the paper and at a nearby Jewish deli.] At that time they wanted to kill the journalists and Jewish people. But this time it’s very random and the motive is not clear.”
Fournet said that the authorities have advised people to stay at home until things are under control.
When asked about the panic that occurred Sunday when thousands of people hurried from a memorial site, he said, “Some of them heard a noise and began to run and then everybody fled from the site. It’s just a nervous reaction that seems to be everywhere.”
He said his son, who is a musician, knew several members of Eagles of Death Metal, a rock band from Palm Desert, Calif., that was performing at the Bataclan. It was reported that a merchandise manager traveling with the band was among those killed.
“My son is safe now, but terribly upset by what has happened here,” Fournet said. “I will be returning to Paris tomorrow and will keep you posted.”
One American student studying in France is among those killed. Meanwhile, France has mounted a series of airstrikes in retaliation against Islamic State in Syria. Also, a massive manhunt is underway for one of the known suspects. Two others are at large.
A day after the attacks, candidates vying for the Democratic presidential nomination were asked about the terrorist attacks in Paris during a debate in Des Moines, Iowa, and how they would deal with the incident if they were president. (President Barack Obama had already called a press conference and expressed his outrage. He extended his sympathy to those who had lost friends and relatives in the slaughter.)
Sen. Bernie Sanders basically skipped past the question, choosing to focus on the millionaires and billionaires who he planned to tax heavily if elected. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met the question directly, stating a different position from the Obama administration. “It cannot be contained,” she said of the Islamic State. “It must be defeated.”
But in an appeal to the leftists among her supporters, she said the U.S. role in the Middle East should be a matter of leadership. “This cannot be an American fight.”
Fournet said it’s difficult to find the motive for the attacks, unless they are a result of the long alliance between the U.S. and France, or in retaliation to the drone killings of Islamic State leaders, including “Jihadi John,” often depicted in videos wielding a knife before a number of beheadings of hostages. It may be nothing more than the “perversity” that Islamic State has posted on the Internet, and this reason makes the crimes all the more insufferable.
“One of the reasons the people are so apprehensive here,” Fournet explained, “is that ISIS has reported that there were eight terrorists in the team, and only seven have been accounted for thus far.”
Since September, France has been conducting a series of airstrikes against Islamic State, but now the missions have increased in number and intensity.