Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Terror scare in France after couple is found with gas cylinders near the Notre Dame Cathedral.

A soldier stands guard at eh Notre Dame Cathedral. Reuters.

France is on edge after two arrests were made involving a car filled with gasoline in what may have been a "dry run" for a terror attack. Reuters. The owner of the car was on a terror watchlist but was released by French authorities. A couple aged 34 and 29 remain in custody. Seven cylinders of gas were found in the car, one of which was empty. It was parked near the Notre Dame Cathedral and was left with it's emergency flashers on. No detonator or explosives were found in the vehicle. The car was left alone for two hours before it was discovered, leading to calls for beefed up security around sites like the Notre Dame Cathedral. No motive has been found for this incident.

My Comment:
Very interesting. This looks like a dry run for a terror attack. Looks like is the key word here. I guess it is possible that a guy on the terror watchlist just lent his car to a couple that had some kind of weird obsession with gas cylinders, but that seems to beggar belief. It's also possible that this was a prank gone wrong, but really, how does that make sense if the car's owner is on a terror watchlist? And I know people like to pull stupid pranks, but even jokers understand that the police take these kinds of things seriously. 

My guess is that this really was a dry run for an upcoming attack. The suspects planted this vehicle on purpose. They wanted to see how long it would take for the French police to react to a abandoned car that looked suspicious. Now they know, it's at least two hours. That's critical information for anyone planning a car bombing. 

But it also seems to carry a massive amount of risk. The French anti-terror police were able to figure out who the suspects were very quickly. Though they released the person with terror links, they are holding onto the other two suspects. Why the person with terror links was released is beyond me, perhaps they had nothing concrete to hold him with. I can't imagine that that person wasn't somehow involved with this. The possible explanations, like he (presumably) lent them the car without knowing what they were doing with it or that his car was stolen by a different group of terrorists, seem completely unlikely to me. 

It is possible that the two arrested were just rubes that were convinced into doing this so the main terror cell could gain information. If that is the case, then it looks like they succeeded. They got the information they need and now they just need to escape attention long enough to pull off their attack. They are going to have to hope that the man with the terror links doesn't talk and the two arrested remain silent as well. That's a big risk, so they must have really wanted this intel. 

Keep in mind that 9/11/2016 is coming up in just a few short days. Though security will likely be high, it's very possible that terrorists will try to use the symbolism of that day to carry out an attack. The Islamic holiday Eid al-Adha was also supposed to be on that day, but was moved back to the 12th for reasons I don't understand but are explained in this al-Jazeera report. Either way, that's two major events where ISIS or other terror groups could try and take advantage of. I will not be surprised if there is an attack on 9/11 this year, or shortly before or after. 

So what kind of attack would it be? From the evidence presented in the Reuters report, it sounds like it would be a car bombing. Picture this. You are a terrorist trying to kill as many people as possible. Your choice of weapon is a bomb. You aren't a suicide bomber but you still want to kill a lot of people with your bomb so you target a touristy area like Notre Dame.. You worry about security so your plan is to park the car near the landmark and set a timer (or use a cellphone detonator) to blow it up. You park it at night or the early morning and then blow it up as crowds gather later in the day, to reduce the chances of you getting caught. 

Sounds like it could work right? Well, I think the police response to this possible dry run shows the problem with it. A conspicuous car will be noticed eventually. Leaving the flashers on probably didn't help things but I think the French Police showed that they were still on the ball enough to find a suspected car bomb. Now they will be on high alert. They will be looking for any suspicious cars now. 

Which makes me think that there is a real possibility that the actual terror attack might not come. Sure, there is a possibility that this is just some weird misunderstanding, and no terror attack was coming anyways, but I think the plotters might get cold feet now. Especially since their people got caught. Either these guys will go underground or they will push their attack up, perhaps using a different style of attack. 

The best outcome would be for the French Police to find and disrupt this cell and hopefully bring all involved to justice. That's a possibility too, but who knows what will happen in these trying times? Let's hope that luck is on our side and that these terrorists get caught soon. 

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