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Edge of Intolerance

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After Terror Strikes, France is on the Edge of a "Seething Volcano"

January 9th 2015

For the first time since the Second World War, the Grande Synagogue of Paris - most prominent synagogue in the French capital - was shuttered when Jews would otherwise be attending Friday Sabbath services. On January 9, a Muslim terrorist seized hostages at a Jewish market in the Vincennes neighborhood of the French capital, prompting Jewish shops throughout the city to close their doors as a precaution.

According to Dr. Shimon Samuels, of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, “The Jewish community feels itself on the edge of a seething volcano.” The rise of anti-Semitism in recent years has prompted French Jews to leave the country, while many have emigrated to Israel.
According to the Jerusalem Post, Samuels said “Hostages in a kosher supermarket held [up] by an African jihadist, who reportedly already killed two victims… The scenes are out of a war movie.”

“But the war is undeclared as long as the sickness is not publicly named as a state of emergency. A culture of excuse exonerates the perpetrators as ‘disaffected, alienated, frustrated, unemployed.’ No other group of frustrated unemployed has resorted to such behavior.”

Also on January 9, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations “expressed the solidarity of the Jewish community of the United States with the people of France in the wake of the horrendous attacks by Islamist terrorists on the Charlie Hebdo magazine, the killing of the female police officer, and now the assault on the kosher food market near Saint-Mandé.”

Hatred of Jews doesn't end with Jews

The Paris branch of the American Jewish Committee called for “stepped up efforts to combat Islamist terrorism in France as violent attacks in Paris over the past two days expanded to a kosher supermarket.” Said Simone Rodan-Benazquen of AJC Paris, "What happened over the past 48 hours was a shock to the entire French nation," adding "It was our 9/11."
"Hatred of Jews never ends with Jews,"  Rodan-Benzaquen said. "Radical Islamists have struck violently, from the murders at a Jewish school in Toulouse two years ago, to repeated incidents of violence against Jews and synagogues in Paris, to the vicious rape of a Jewish woman in her own home, and today's assault on a kosher supermarket in the middle of Paris."

It was on the third day of a crisis that shook France and the world, French security forces killed three terrorists in raids at two distinct locations. Gunfire and several detonations were heard at nightfall in the Vincennes area of Paris where a terrorist was holding several hostages in a Jewish food market. That terrorist was felled by police gunfire. In that case, police were able to get a live feed from the kosher market’s security cameras. In footage released by French authorities, police could be seen entering the store.

Almost simultaneously, police forces raided a printing company warehouse in Dammartin-en-Goele – a town just east of Paris – where the suspects in the deadly January 7 Charlie Hebdo attack were also killed.  The Franco-Algerian brothers who had been suspected in the attack – Said and Cherif Kouachi – are confirmed dead. They emerged from the building in the commercial complex near the Charles DeGaulle international airport and were cut down by shots fired by the police. The pair had earlier declared their willingness to die as Muslim “martyrs.” They killed twelve persons in their attack at the Charlie Hebdo headquarters in Paris on January 7. One had been convicted on terrorism charges in 2008, while the other was known to have visited conflictive Yemen. Both were on the US no-fly list for air passengers.

In the kosher market raid, the assailant was identified as Amedy Coulibaly. Four hostages were also killed at the market. Coulibaly had been linked to one of the Kouachi brothers.  Coulibaly, along with his female companion Hayat Boumeddienne, are believed to be responsible for killing a female police trainee on January 8. Boumeddinienne is still at large.

On January 9, the office of the mayor of Parish announced the closure of all stores on Rue Rosiers in the Marais neighborhood. Normally, in the hours before the Jewish observance of the Sabbath, the street would be thronged with tourists and shoppers. Less than a mile away from the Charlie Hebdo headquarters, it was a ghost-town today. All kosher establishments in the city closed during the duration of the hostage situation at Vincennes.

Tens of thousands of French security forces mobilized in and around Paris to respond to the attacks and search for the culprits. Earlier on January 9, Prime Minister Manuel Valls affirmed that both suspects had been known to intelligence services before the attack. Media reports suggest that Algerian intelligence sources were also aware of the danger the terrorists posed. There are reports that Said Kouachi had travelled to Yemen. However, it is unclear whether he went there for training by Al Qaeda, which is based there. A witness said that during the Charlie Hebdo attack, he proclaimed his membership in the Al Qaeda organization. His brother, Cherif, was convicted of terrorism charges in 2008 for links to a network sending Muslims to fight U.S. forces in Iraq.

French President Francois Hollande called for tolerance after the country’s worst terrorist attack in decades. “France has been struck directly in the heart of its capital, in a place where the spirit of liberty – and thus of resistance – breathed freely,” Hollande said.

Expect more of the same

In a statement, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said that at least nine persons, including friends of the Koachi brothers, have been detained. Another 90, some of whom witnessed the deadly attacks, have been questioned. Nine people, members of the brothers’ entourage, have been detained for questioning in several regions. In all, 90 people, many of them witnesses to the grisly assault on the satirical weekly, were questioned for information on the attackers, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in a statement.

Among other national leaders, President Obama  has sent condolences to the French people along with assurances of security cooperation. Attorney General Erick Holder travels to Paris on January 10 to consult with his French counterparts. The chief of MI5 - Britain's equivalent of the CIA - said this week that the west can expect to see further attacks. AP said that a spokesperson for Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula directed the attack on Charlie Hebdo  "as revenge for the honor" of Islam's founder.

Martin Barillas also edits Speroforum.com


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