FLASH ALERT: GOVERNMENTS AND CITIZENS UNDER ATTACK FOLLOWING OCTOBER 2020 FRENCH INCIDENTS

The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) is issuing a FLASH ALERT to citizens of Western countries, including those living in the West as well as elsewhere due to an increased safety risk. The current CTG threat matrix indicates the likelihood an extremist individual may attempt to carry out attacks is HIGH. We base this assessment on the initial death and decapitation of a French school teacher on October 16, as well as the recent attacks in France on October 29 - resulting in three dead, one due to decapitation, in Nice, the shooting of an individual who was threatening others with a weapon, as well as an attack by a Saudi national at the French embassy in Saudi Arabia.


CTG notes an increase in attacks against French citizens by those who have radical interpretations of Islam. Following the beheading of the French professor and statements by French officials, anti-Western sentiments by those who follow a radical version of Islam have dominated social media. There has been an increase in calls for violence, with one message reading “We will make an offering of your unclean blood to Allah” (image below).[1]



On October 16, Samuel Paty, a French professor, was decapitated by an 18-year-old Chechen teenager in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, France, after showing images of the Prophet Muhammad in his class during a lesson on the freedom of expression.[2] Displaying the image of the Prophet is forbidden in Islam, as it is believed to lead to idolatry. Mr. Paty received threats after displaying the controversial images in class.[3]


Following the attack, on October 17, the Montpellier government building in France projected images from Charlie Hebdo, a cartoon magazine, of the Prophet Muhammed on their building to reportedly show solidarity with the French professor.[4] Crowds gathered to view these cartoons and stand together (image below).[5]





RECENT ATTACKS & INDICATORS IN FRANCE

On October 29, there was an attack in a church in Nice, France, which left three dead and several wounded, one of whom was presumably decapitated.[6] Two hours later, a man was shot dead in Avignon, France. The man reportedly shouted “Allahu Akbar” after threatening people with a handgun.[7] In Saudi Arabia, an individual wielding a knife outside of the French consulate wounded a national guard.[8] A few hours later, a man with a knife was arrested near a church in Sartrouville, France and reportedly wanted to "do as in Nice.”[9]


It is still not clear if these events are linked. France is currently on maximum alert, with the Prime Minister of France Tweeting (image below), “The Government has just brought the Vigipirate plan to the level of an emergency attack throughout the country. The President of the Republic convened tomorrow morning a Defense and National Security Council.”[10]





On October 31st, an orthodox priest was badly shot near a church in the French city of Lyon.[11] The suspected gunman was reportedly apprehended. At this time, the motivation for the attack is under investigation, with Lyon officials liaising with the national anti-terrorism prosecutor.[12]





Following these attacks, an Islamic State affiliated Hoop channel shared the following propaganda image (image below), with the caption, “Fight for Him [The Prophet], cut off their throats.”[13]



The rhetoric inciting further violence is calling for decapitations with captions such as “Slit their throats” (image below).[14]



On Twitter, Mahathir Mohamad, the former Malasyan Prime Minister, supported the killing of French citizens due to his perceived “irresponsibility” of Macron’s speech towards Muslims, although some tweets were deleted by Twitter (see images below).[15]





Hashtags such as #EmbassadorWillLeavePak, #BoycottFrance, and #KickOutFrenchAmbassador, have been used to share anti-France sentiments, including images which display that all Muslims should hate France (image below).[16]


Additional anti-France hashtags target President Macron, including #MacronSaySorryToMuslims. There are also some who call for the beheading of Macron (images below) and demand relations are severed between Pakistan and France.[17] Finally, most messages shared in pro-Islamic State and radical chats have been in both French and Arabic exclusively.





The recent speech from Macron has also incited protests in Muslim countries, such as in Bangladesh, where tens of thousands of people have marched through Dhaka calling for the boycott of French products.[18]


There has also been a resurgence of calls for increased violence, with an increase in creating targeted propaganda (image below). [19]



Additionally, the active sharing of the following image to spread awareness and knowledge of how to use a truck for terrorist attacks, as well as ideal targets, alluding to the 2016 Nice attacks.[20]



France, since 2000, has had terrorist attacks which have been relatively widespread across the country (image below).[21] However, out of 43 incidents, 17 of them occurred in the Paris region. There were a wide array of methods utilized - 12 of them were shootings, 17 were stabbings, 4 involved some kind of explosive, 5 utilized vehicles and 3 involved beheadings (two of which occurred in October 2020).



RECENT INDICATORS OF THREAT IN OTHER WESTERN COUNTRIES

On October 26, the ‘official’ twitter account for Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan Sindh, a far-right Islamist political party in Pakistan, shared a video (image below) with the hashtag #EmbassadorWillLeavePak and the caption, “The West has challenged us to wake up Muslims. The punishment for arrogance is death. Tell the world.”[22]



Pro-Islamic State extremists shared the following message (image below), stating, “It’s been a week since the scums barked (called) on boycotting! What changed? Nothing but humiliation and insults. Meanwhile look to the actions of the powerful ones [literal translation: people of the heavy feet] made the infidel cities weep and condemn, and that’s the pride of jihad in the world no one respects but powerful ones.”[23]



A secondary post (image below), called to focus on the heads of the government and head of Crusaders in Muslim Countries. It states, “We recommend the sons of jealous monotheism, the grandsons of  ibn Unais [a companion of the Prophet Muhammed] to focus on the heads of governments and the crusaders in the Muslims countries and their economic and corrupt places. Especially Churches and their unclean temples. And with this it will be a huge deterrent to divide the rats. And spread fear in their hearts, as their life is their concern! With this you open doors for your brothers and for the entire Muslims to hurt those criminals!”[24]



In the wake of October 29 attacks, Republican DE candidate for the US Senate tweeted (seen below[25]):



This tweet received diverse reactions. It is a further indicator of the incitement of Islamophobia across the US and Europe, potentially inviting the use of violence against Westerners outside of France. This may also incite protests or Islamophobic movements that target Muslims in the West.


CONCLUSION

CTG assesses that the current threat climate is HIGH. We base this assessment on the initial death and decapitation of a French school teacher on October 16, as well as the recent attacks in France on October 29, resulting in three dead with one decapitated in Nice, the shooting of an individual who was threatening others with a weapon, as well as an attack by a Saudi national at the French embassy in Saudi Arabia, and the online Islamophobic responses countered with hateful attempt to unite Muslims around the world.


While in various venues or taking public transportation, members of the general public should be vigilant. Attackers are more likely to look for unprotected, soft, vulnerable or what they consider, easy targets.  


Law Enforcement and Security Teams should be at a heightened state of alert and should be ready for immediate response to counter these types of attacks in order to prevent further loss of life. Increased presence of law enforcement and security teams may deter another attack.


Businesses (indoor/outdoor restaurants, markets, malls, etc.) that serve the public, mass transportation systems and churches (especially Catholic/Christian) should increase security and the presence of law enforcement in the upcoming days and weeks.


Our analysis indicates that there is a HIGH PROBABILITY of attacks against French citizens across the globe by those who have radical interpretations of Islam.


Our analysis indicates that there is a MEDIUM-HIGH PROBABILITY of attacks across Western countries by those who have radical interpretations of Islam.


It is CTG’s recommendation that citizens of Western countries domestic and abroad should vigilantly practice safe security measures.


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) is a unit of the global risk consulting and security firm Paladin 7. CTG proactively searches for and analyzes the threat of terrorism that comes from International Terrorist Organizations, Domestic Terrorist Organizations, and Individuals determined to inflict terror upon societies, organizations and individuals. Our international and national security professionals set up protective measures to detect, deter, and prevent, discourage, and dissuade any terrorist organization or individual from carrying out an attack on organizations and individuals. We work to protect our clients from any terrorist threat or attack. We also work proactively with the proper authorities to find those in terrorist organizations and individuals who will cause harm and assist in bringing them to justice and mitigating the threat long-term.


[1] HUMINT Source, Hoop Messenger, October 2020 (Translated by Google)

[2] Suspect in teacher’s beheading in France was Chechen teen, Associated Press, October 2020, https://apnews.com/article/france-teacher-beheading-suspect-chechen-e91953f5c9fa0a4d52e51327d11a47fb

[3] Ibid.

[4] France: Charlie Hebdo cartoons projected on government building to express solidarity with deceased teacher who was beheaded by Islamic terrorist, OpIndia, October 2020, https://www.opindia.com/2020/10/charlie-hebdo-cartoon-french-govt-building-viral-video/

[5] Metropolitain Charlie Hebdo Video, Twitter, October 2020, https://twitter.com/myMetropolitain/status/1318963129229955072

[6] French police say three dead in knife attack at Nice church, separate assailant shot dead near Avignon, ABC News, October 2020, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-10-29/france-nice-knife-attack-three-dead-several-injured/12828942

[7] Ibid.

[8] Deadly Knife Attack in Nice Is Terrorism, French Officials Say, New York Times, October 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/29/world/europe/nice-attack-france.html

[9] A man arrested near a church in Sartrouville after wanting to "behave like in Nice", Le Parisian, October 2020, https://www.leparisien.fr/yvelines-78/un-homme-interpelle-pres-d-une-eglise-a-sartrouville-apres-avoir-voulu-faire-comme-a-nice-29-10-2020-8405566.php?utm_campaign=twitter_partage&utm_medium=social

[10] Prime Minister of France Security Level, Twitter, October 2020, https://twitter.com/JeanCASTEX/status/1321782053411708928 (Translated by Google)

[11] Lyon : Un prêtre orthodoxe grièvement blessé par balles à proximité d’une église, Actu17, October 2020, https://actu17.fr/lyon-un-pretre-orthodoxe-blesse-par-balles-a-proximite-dune-eglise/ (Translated by Estela Villarabide Varela).

[12] Lyon: man arrested after priest shot at church, The Guardian, October 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/31/lyon-attack-priest-shooting-church-france

[13] HUMINT Source, Hoop Messenger, October 2020 (Translated by Google)

[14] Ibid.

[15]Malaysian ex-PM Mahathir says Muslims 'have right to kill French', France 24, October 2020, https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20201029-malaysian-ex-pm-mahathir-says-muslims-have-right-to-kill-french

[16] Muhammad Iftikhar Ali, Twitter, October 2020, https://twitter.com/IffiRai_IR/status/1320737414407749632

[17] Sajid Ali, Twitter, October 2020, https://twitter.com/15908S/status/1321756338070978560?s=20

[18] Huge Bangladesh rally calls for boycott of French products, BBC, October 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-54704859

[19] HUMINT Source, Hoop Messenger, October 2020

[20] HUMINT Source, Hoop Messenger, October 2020

[21] “France Terrorist Attacks Since 2000” via Google My Maps

[22] TLP Sindh Official Tweet, Twitter, October 2020, https://twitter.com/TLPSindhMarkaz/status/1320741927722143745

[23] HUMINT Source, Hoop Messenger, October 2020 (Translated by Mohammed Abdalla)

[24] HUMINT Source, Hoop Messenger, October 2020 (Translated by Mohammed Abdalla & Google Translate)

[25] Lauren Witzke, Twitter, October 2020, https://twitter.com/LaurenWitzkeDE/status/1321794537392656384?s=20

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