Written by Greg Ellifritz
On Wednesday, January 7, 2014 three masked Islamic terrorists entered the offices of a satire magazine in Paris, France. They used AK-47 rifles and an RPG to kill 10 journalists and two police officers before making their escape. Ten more people were wounded in the attack. According to news sources, the terrorists were seeking revenge against the magazine’s editor for printing a cartoon critical of the Islamic religion. The men asked for the editor by name and went straight to a conference room where he was holding a meeting. From Law Officer Magazine:
“The staff was in an editorial meeting and the gunmen headed straight for the paper’s editor, Stephane Charbonnier — widely known by his pen name Charb — killing him and his police bodyguard first, said Christophe Crepin, a police union spokesman.”
“Hey! We avenged the Prophet Muhammad! We killed Charlie Hebdo,” one of the men shouted in French, according to a video shot from a nearby building and broadcast on French TV. Other video showed two gunmen in black at a crossroads who appeared to fire down one of the streets. A cry of “Allahu akbar!” — Arabic for “God is great”— could be heard among the gunshots.”
After killing 11 people, the terrorists shot another policeman on their way out of the building and then made their escape in a car parked outside. A short while later they car-jacked a man and switched cars for their escape. As they drove to the northern suburbs of Paris, they stole one more car, robbed a gas station, and created a hostage standoff at a printing plant. Police eventually raided the printing facility, freeing the hostage and killing the two terrorists.
Although details about the events are still being released, there are a few obvious take-home points to consider in the event a similar attack occurs here:
1) Don’t depend on passive security measures to keep you safe. The doors to the magazine’s office were locked. That didn’t matter to the terrorists. They just waited for an employee, held her hostage and told her they would kill her unless she let them in. From the Daily Mail:
“‘I had gone to pick up my daughter at day care, arriving in front of the magazine building, where two masked and armed men brutally threatened us,’ said Ms Rey….’They said they wanted to go up to the offices, so I tapped in the code,’ said Ms Rey, referring to the digi-code security system on the inter-phone.”
What would you do in that situation? I bet most of you would let the terrorists inside in order to prevent them from killing you and your child. Just like locked doors did not stop the killer at Sandy Hook Elementary (he shot a hole through a window and entered), locked doors didn’t stop the attack here. All locations can be penetrated by criminals if they are properly motivated. Don’t think you are safe because you live or work in a “secure” building.
2) Evacuation sites need to be considered beforehand. There were photographs in the Daily Mail that showed victims evacuating to the roof of the building to avoid the gunfire. That’s not a good choice. Never lock down in or evacuate to an area that has no alternate escape routes. If the gunmen would have pressed the assault instead of leaving, all the people stranded on the roof would have been dead…caught there without a means to escape.
Pre-plan evacuation routes for any public buildings where you spend time. Think about work, school, shopping, the gym, day care centers, business offices and any other place where you spend significant amounts of time. Plan at least two escape routes for each location. Don’t evacuate to an area without escape routes. Avoid evacuating into a parking lot as well. The terrorist could easily plant a car bomb in the parking lot to target fleeing victims. Look for multiple avenues of escape, wide open fields of fire, and preferably some type of cover that will stop rifle bullets.
3) Don’t bet your life on unarmed police and security guards. Do you think that a fireman without a hose line or fire extinguisher would provide adequate service in the event of a fire? Then why do you think cops and security guards without guns can save you from armed terrorists? One of the first people killed in the attack was the magazine editor’s (likely unarmed) police bodyguard. An unarmed responding police bike patrol officer was killed as the terrorists left the building. That killing was recorded on video. Watch it below (caution for graphic violence):
The video site Live Leak reports the conversation between the police officer and the gunman to be as follows:
Conversation between the gunman and the police man:
Gunman: “You wanted to Kill Us ?”
Police man:”No, it’s all right chief“
(Chief is a popular word used here in Paris)
Furthermore the Daily Caller reported that several additional responding police officers had to flee the scene because they too were unarmed.
“Several Paris police officers who came into contact with the armed terrorists who slaughtered 10 journalists at the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine, retreated from the gunmen because they were unarmed, according to an eyewitness. “Three policemen had arrived on bikes but had to leave because the men were armed, obviously,” Benoit Bringer, who works on the same floor as Charlie Hebdo’s offices”
You may be surprised to note that not all cops in the USA carry guns as you might assume. Many police departments (including my own) have no directive requiring either on-duty or off duty-officers to carry firearms. Plainclothes officers and administrators regularly walk around unarmed in lots of police agencies. This is unacceptable in an age of terrorism and mass killings. If you are a police officer reading this article, I urge you to carry a quality sidearm with you at all times. Otherwise, you quite likely will end up as dead as these French cops when the next terrorist attack happens here.
Likewise, if you have a concealed carry license and are truly concerned about your safety, you need to be carrying your pistol as well. No excuses! Carry your piece! Look at all the folks who took video of this attack. If those same folks used their hands to steady a firearm and shoot these monsters instead of holding up their phones, fewer people would be dead.
Don’t rely on the police and security, even here in America. You must, as my friend Dave Spaulding suggests, “Become an active participant in your own rescue.”
4) Weapons and tactics– These killers weren’t amateurs. Watch the video above again. The shooters were calm, utilized cover well, ran their weapons effectively, and were well versed in team tactics. The bullet hole grouping on the responding police cruiser tells us that these terrorists weren’t just utilizing “spray and pray” tactics. the New York Times reports that one of the suspect had spent at least “a few months” in an Al Qaeda terrorist training camp in Yemen.
The terrorists were armed with Kalashnikov rifles, extra ammunition, and an RPG. Some reports state that they initiated the attack on the newspaper with an explosion from an RPG round. That’s no joke. Have you ever seen an RPG fired? For those of you who haven’t, check out the video below of me firing one in Cambodia. Turn down your speakers if adult language offends you.
Are you prepared to deal with attackers like this? You will be outnumbered, outgunned, and facing skilled and motivated adversaries. This isn’t your standard CCW shooting of a cracked out robber armed with a knife. You’re going to need to think about the dangers involved. The safest course of action for you is likely to be to escape rather than to engage. If the entire French national police force couldn’t kill these guys for three days, what are your chances?
If you do choose to engage, what is your maximum effective range with your carry weapon? You might have to close the distance to guarantee making your hits rather than standing off 100 yards and trying to cap the terrorists with your .38 snub, Remember, you will be fighting rifles (and in this case an RPG) with your concealed carry piece. Do you still feel “comfortable” with that .380 auto (with no spare ammo) in your back pocket? You don’t want to be spraying rounds without getting hits at long range with your carry pistol. You may not be able to hit at 100 yards, but those guys with rifles you are shooting at sure can.
When is the last time you’ve practiced extremely long range shooting with your pistol? Have you practiced using cover to close the distance on a rifle armed attacker in order to make your hits? What about ambushes? Do you know how to set up an ambush against the terrorists so that the short range and maneuverability of your handgun can be used to exploit the more cumbersome nature of the rifles and RPG? These are all things to think about if you want to be a player in this game.
5) Mobile Killers- I’ve written extensively about the trend of active killers becoming mobile in order to evade the police response (here and here). The terrorists in France employed the tactic with textbook precision. According to Russia Today:
“The attackers got into a getaway car and set off in the direction of Porte de Pantin in northeast Paris, according to police. Abandoning the first car, they hijacked a second turning the driver out on to the road. “
Changing cars throws a huge wrench in the police response. The cops are looking for a vehicle that the terrorists are no longer driving. It’s critically important that any witnesses should be providing good vehicle descriptions to police. The officers and dispatchers should be trained to recognize that reports of car crashes, car jackings and vehicle thefts contemporaneous with an active shooter event may be the killers’ attempts to stay mobile. These crimes should be given a priority response.
Even crimes occurring a significant time after the initial attack may be related. The BBC reported that the same Paris terror suspects robbed a gas station in Norther France approximately 24 hours after the shootings. They used AKs and RPGs to steal food and gas. That’s not your average robbery. Police need to be extra alert when responding to any call contemporaneous with an active killer attack.
6) We need to be alert for copycat style attacks, both here in the USA and abroad. Events like this embolden other terrorists. Many terrorists who previously lacked the will to conduct an attack will become inspired to act out as well. One such copycat terrorist attack already occurred in Paris just one day after the shooting. A French police woman was killed and a street sweeper was seriously injured after another terrorist opened fire with an assault rifle. The terrorist had been involved in a traffic accident and immediately attacked the responding officer. An earlier car bombing outside a Paris mosque may have been a copycat attack as well.
The copycat terrorists who killed the police woman have been tied to the same terrorist cell as the Charlie Hebdo shooters. These copycats went on to steal another car in the north of France before attacking a Kosher Deli and market. The Times of Israel reported that the attack on the deli involved the terrorists firing AK-47 gunfire into the store for approximately 20 seconds before taking several people hostage. The terrorists killed four hostages and seriously injured four more in the initial takeover. They then called police and stated that they would not release the hostages until the terrorists who shot up the magazine office were freed. After one telephone communication, one of the terrorists left his phone turned on. When police heard his death prayers and preparation to kill the remaining hostages, they stormed the deli. One of the terrorists was killed by police. His female accomplice escaped.
The copycat terrorists have long worried me. They are apparently worrying the intelligence community as well. RT reports that Britains MI-5 is actively investigating an Al Qaeda group planning “mass casualty attacks in the West.” Just take a look at the success that these two teams of terrorist had. They killed numerous people and escaped for several days all while 90,000 French police officers and military personnel were hunting them. From the Al Qaeda standpoint the deaths of the four terrorists allowed them to achieve martyrdom status and bring tremendous publicity to the cause. Three dead terrorists versus 17 dead citizens. Do the math. That’s a great return on investment from the terrorist perspective. That will encourage similar attacks in the west.
Think how it would go down here….
What if Al Qaeda had 10 pairs or terrorists working together all in different parts of the country. On the first day of the attack, each pair of terrorists enters a fast food restaurant at the same time and fires a couple of magazines of AK-47 ammunition. They are in and out in less than a minute. The vast majority of these teams would not be immediately caught by police or killed by citizens on scene. They would escape.
On the following day, the teams all hit Wal-Mart stores in different parts of the country with the same results. Get in, fire a bunch of rounds, get out. The next day they do the same thing at a gas station and then continue hitting random coordinated targets throughout the country. What do you think would happen after the second or third day? The American economy would grind to a halt. No one would leave their house. No one would go to work or school out of fears of being killed. The terrorist network could cripple out entire country with just 20 bold active killers.
It’s only a matter of time before it happens here. French security forces have already detailed the fact that numerous sleeper cells in France and in the West have been activated. We simply have no idea how many Islamist terrorists are currently located in America just waiting for the “go” signal. The events over the past few days in France might just be the signal they are awaiting. We all need to be prepared for the possibility that we will suffer a similar or greater attack than what we saw last week in Paris.
7) We must be prepared to exploit terrorist weakness whenever possible during the attack. Take a look at The Daily Mail’s report of the copycat killing of the police woman. Take special note of the picture of the live round (appears to be Russian steel case 7.62 x 39 mm) on the ground.
How would a live round get on the ground? Only a few shots fired so it wasn’t off the top of a magazine on a flubbed reload. It was either a malfunction or the shooter jacked out a live round because he wasn’t familiar enough with his weapon system. In any event, there was a point in the fight where the shooter was operating the charging handle rather than shooting. We need to train to recognize and exploit moments of opportunity like this. It is extraordinarily common that killers will have to reload or will have a weapons malfunction during an active shooter attack. Everyone needs to understand what those moments look like and be prepared to attack, even empty handed if necessary, when the killer’s gun is inoperable.
These are just a few points from two very complex terrorist acts. I’ll continue to monitor news outlets and share additional pertinent information when it becomes available. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.
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