What We Know about the Paris Attackers

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A man holds a drawing depicting the French flag and carrying the words "I am Parisian" in front of the French embassy after attacks in Paris on Friday, in Warsaw, Poland November 14, 2015. Reuters/Kacper Pempel

On Friday eight attackers in different parts of Paris shot and killed 127 people in seemingly coordinated attacks. The act has since been claimed by extremist group the Islamic State, or ISIS, raising serious questions about the extent of extremist influence in France and the likelihood of further violence.

Who are the killers?

So far little is known about the identities of the eight attackers, though initial reports suggest the attacks were carefully coordinated and could have been carried out by a relatively international group. Both Associated Press and French public broadcaster BFMTV cite French police officials as saying that a Syrian passport was found on the body of one of the suicide bombers at the Stade de France. However one of the witnesses at the Bataclan theater attack described to BFMTV that one of the attackers he saw was "pretty small, white and looked like a European."

French national daily newspaper Le Monde also reports that Horst Seehofer, president of Germany's Bavaria region, said there is a link between the arrest of an armed man in the German region last week and the attacks of Friday. Seehofer called links between the arrest and the organized attack in Paris "founded" and added that the man had travelled through Montenegro. Seehofer's comments have not been confirmed by other sources.

On Saturday, French President Francois Hollande alluded to the operation being planned from abroad with assistance from inside France, but the French Ministry of Defense would not speculate further on the identity or nationality of the killers.

ISIS-backed?

Charlie Winter, a security expert who until recently worked for the British anti-radicalization think tank the Quilliam Foundation, believes the group's operational tactics demonstrate a "high level of sophistication." Their movements in Paris seemed well drilled, he says.

"What is clear is that these attackers had been trained," Winter says. "They moved very professionally and strategically. The fact they had suicide vests is operationally unusual but it shows a high degree of sophistication. It is indicative that this is more of an operation than a self-starter.

"It has been very carefully coordinated and it appears to have been planned for some time," Winter says. "It is likely the group was preparing for the attack awhile in advance and it is not a direct response to recent events such as (the death of) Jihadi John or ISIS defeat at Sinjar."

The statement released by ISIS claiming responsibility for the attack did not identify any of the attackers and, according to Winter, it is still unclear whether these attacks were ISIS-inspired or ISIS-directed.

"It looks like the statement has been thrown together off the back of news reports," Winter says. The statement itself also inaccurately claims one of the attacks took place in the 18th arrondissement of Paris. The attacks took place in the 10th and 11th arrondissements and the Saint-Denis neighborhood of the French capital. Winter says that this is not particularly unusual for an ISIS statement and there is not much doubt that the attack is linked to ISIS, though the question remains as to how closely the cell was commanded by the extremist group.

"Supporters of ISIS on Twitter and Telegram last night rallied in excitement and have made a concerted effort to create a social media frenzy around the attack," he says.

Accomplices on the Loose?

The French Prosecutor's office spokeswoman Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre has told the Associated Press that police have not ruled out the possibility that accomplices may still be at large. That is the focus of the investigation now, she said. French weekly news magazine Le Point cites "several police sources" as saying that French law enforcement officials are currently looking for a vehicle "with one or several people, probably armed," but there is no official confirmation on this.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced that a curfew will be introduced for the time being, which is the first instance of such a measure being put in place since World War II. Additional troops will also be diverted to the capital in a bid to deter new attacks.