Friday, February 27, 2015

Terror jolts France; nation unifies under dire threat

Nick Damarodis

The headquarters of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris were attacked by radical Islamists on January 7. Retaliating for the magazine’s controversial depictions of the prophet Muhammad, the two gunmen murdered 12 people who were working that day, including a Muslim police officer, Ahmed Merabet, who attempted to stop the men.
  The rampage continued as the men decided to take over a warehouse on Jan. 9 in the small town of Dammartin-en-goele, located a few minutes away from Charles De Gaulle Airport. The hostage situation was reported around 10 a.m. Paris time, with the whole town placed on lockdown by police and military forces shortly after. While this standoff was taking place, another man abruptly entered a kosher grocery store, Hyper Cache, in Eastern Paris shortly after 1 p.m. Both were hostage situations, with the Hebdo gunmen holding one hostage and the Hyper Cache standoff involving several shoppers, most of whom were women and children.
  The world was watching as the two tense, live standoffs took place in the city. A display of security was produced unlike ever before seen in modern France, with over 80,000 soldiers, police officers, and special forces taking part in operations in both areas. At the second standoff, the situation was more delicate, considering the higher number of hostages and dense area that the market was in. The main highway of Paris, similar to Washington D.C.’s beltway, was shut down for the better part of the day to prevent greater movement in and around the metropolitan area.
  In Dammartin-en-goele, schools were on lockdown and had to be evacuated before any type of force was used against the terrorists. While the children were in school, reporters noted that some of the children at the school closest to the warehouse were brave enough to open up windows and chant “Je suis Charlie!,” the motto of the free expression movement that has come out of the attacks, to everyone standing outside. Parents were eventually allowed to pick their children up and move them to safer ground. Due to the small size of the town, police and military officials were able to isolate the area quickly.
  After several hours of attempted negotiation with the two Hebdo terrorists, gunshots were heard outside of the warehouse they had taken over just before 6 p.m. Paris Time. At that point, the military decided to fire back and kill the gunmen in a swift manner.
  It was a short time before the military made the decision to strike Hyper Cache, where one gunman was still holding hostages. A quick gunbattle occurred, with the gunmen dying in the midst of rapid fire as special forces drove their way into the establishment.Unfortunately, the battle would result in a mix of both living hostages who were saved as well as some casualties. Five people lost their lives in the Kosher market attack. On the day of the hostage attacks, AQAP (Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) took responsibility for the attacks.
  The attacks that brought shock and fear to France also delivered a wave of support from people around the globe. #Jesuischarlie has become one of the most used hashtags ever, and many have even gone out onto the streets in their own cities to march in support of the French and freedom of the press.
  Paris was the center of these peaceful marches on Jan. 11, as 1.5 million people went on the streets to show their support, an unprecedented number for a march in Paris.
   Many prominent world leaders were in attendance, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu locking arms with French President Francois Hollande and numerous other foreign dignitaries. Hollande and Netanyahu went to the Grande Synagogue in Paris after the march, where the Israeli PM announced “Our common enemy is radical, extremist Islam - not normal Islam,” and also told all Jews in France that they have a homeland in Israel if they feel it is necessary to leave. One notable exception was the United States, with neither President Obama nor Vice President Biden in attendance. Attorney General Eric Holder was in Paris, but he was not at the rally. He took part in security meetings in the days afterward.
  Although the outpouring of support to the victims of these attacks has been beneficial to promoting a peaceful and unified front, many are still wondering what will happen next. Some want stricter controls on who can come in and out of France, while others are suggesting doing more to assist French Muslims in assimilating within their nation. Each of the attackers was born in France and evolved into radical islamists while in France.
  There is still a manhunt to track down the wife of the attacker of the Kosher market. According to recent intelligence gathering, she left the country on Jan. 4 from Spain and headed for Turkey to eventually make her way into Syria.
Charlie Hebdo magazine has released its latest issue, described as a survivors’ issue, throughout France and nearly 20 other countries. With translations in five languages, there is a great expectation for high sales from this issue. Newsstands around Paris were jammed on Jan. 14, the first day that the issue came out. The highly sought after magazine apparently sold out within minutes. Millions of copies have been produced, and more could be produced to ensure that everyone who wants a copy is able to find one, although it is expected to be extremely difficult to buy a copy in America. Only 300 of the magazines are estimated to arrive in the U.S., but a total of over five million have been sold worldwide.

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