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Terrorism Expert: Paris Attacks Mark 'Massive Intelligence Failure'


Bill Roggio is a terrorism expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and he's with us now. Thank you for joining us.

BILL ROGGIO: Thanks, it's a pleasure.

MCEVERS: And this attack has been called terrorism, I mean, by American officials and French officials. And it seems to have worked. I mean, Paris is on lockdown. There's a curfew. I mean, that is the goal of terrorism, right?

ROGGIO: Absolutely. It is achieved in its goal, and you have a high death toll. This attack is very similar to the 2008 suicide assault in Mumbai, which was carried out by Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is an al-Qaida-linked group that operates in Pakistan and Afghanistan and India. That also shut down the city of Mumbai for about 60 hours before they cleared out all of the attackers. There are reports that there are still attackers in Paris at large. So you can expect France to be on lockdown several days, my guess, until they are all found and until every location that can remotely be associated with the individuals involved in these attacks are hunted down.

MCEVERS: As we reported, no militant group has claimed responsibility for this. But we have seen some militants, you know, celebrating this attack online. Is that the kind of thing they're saying, you know, look what we can do to a major world capital?

ROGGIO: Yes, exactly, and right now you have a lot of supporters from the Islamic State particularly that are crowing about this, whether it was the Islamic State or al-Qaida really, it doesn't matter. These are two sides of the same coin. The Islamic State, if you remember, was part of al-Qaida up until 2000 - February 2014 when they were kicked out because of a leadership dispute. Al-Qaida and the Islamic State both share the same goals, which is to establish a global caliphate, impose Shariah or Islamic law. And they just differ a little bit in their tactics, and the Islamic State is less inclusive. But yeah, they both practice - they're fitting local insurgencies to take over, to create local emirates in the global caliphate. And then they want to attack us in the West to keep us off balance. And it's a boon for recruiting and for funding for their activities worldwide.

MCEVERS: You compared this to the 2008 attack in Mumbai. But I wonder also how you would compare it to the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in January. And of course the simultaneous attacks or the subsequent attacks on a kosher market and other places. Are there similarities from that attack to this one?

ROGGIO: Similarities in that you used gunmen to conduct an attack. This one, we're still at the first-report stage.


ROGGIO: Apparently there may have been - you had a couple of explosions which did not occur at Charlie Hebdo. And there may have been one or more suicide bombers. They maybe had been part of the explosion. So it's really Charlie Hebdo on a larger scale. You got to remember, Charlie Hebdo was two al-Qaida and Arabian Peninsula operatives that attacked the office. And then one of their friends who swore allegiance to the Islamic State, he then - they weren't coordinated attacks. He - it was a follow-on attack to the Charlie Hebdo attack at the Jewish - at the market.

MCEVERS: Right, and really quickly, I mean, is there anything that strikes you about what we know so far about today's attacks?

ROGGIO: Well, what strikes me is that this was a massive intelligence failure across the board. No one - you know, if this was one or two individuals that hit a single target, you could understand that slipping by. But this was a coordinated attack. At least five, I've heard up to nine, locations where there was attacks. Again, we're going to have to sort that out over the next couple of days. But it's difficult to coordinate an attack like that and keep that quiet from...

MCEVERS: Thanks so much.

ROGGIO: ...You know, French intelligence is very good at what it does.

MCEVERS: Thank you so much. Bill Roggio of the Defense of Democracies. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.