Starts this Wednesday (8) in Paris the trial of 20 accused of the terrorist attack in November 2015, claimed by the Islamic State and which left 130 dead and about 500 injured at the Bataclan concert hall, on a terrace of bars and restaurants in Paris and at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis.
Expected to last nine months, this is expected to be the largest criminal trial ever held in France, after an investigation that involved 19 countries and lasted four and a half years. The trial is also likely to rekindle a discussion about the threat of Islamic terrorism, according to counterterrorism expert Alain Grignard, a professor of political science and criminology at the University of Liège in Belgium.
Grignard, who worked in the anti-terrorism division of the Belgian Federal Judiciary Police and is a member of the Center for Terrorism and Radicalization Studies at the University of Liège, points out that the risk of jihadist attacks in Europe today is lower. The main concern at the moment, according to him, is not with large coordinated attacks, like those in Paris, but with individual actions.
“The factors that fuel radical Islam still exist, but the rear bases, like those that operated in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 and in the Syrian-Iraqi region, are dismantled. The human and technical resources of a proto-state allowed for more spectacular actions”, he says.
Without this base of support, what is feared, according to Grignard, are more isolated acts, such as stabbing or being run over. “These minor actions could increase with all the publicity given to the trial in Paris, because from September to April we will only talk about the Islamic State in the media. It will be the largest communication operation of this group in the West.”
Thus, he says, this visibility could encourage supporters more or less close to the cause to commit improvised attacks, such as those that occurred last year during the trial of the attack on journalists from the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo.
The 2015 massacre “fostered in Raqqa [Síria], prepared in Belgium and executed in Paris, was the most successful example in Europe of an attack led by the Islamic State”, in addition to the deadliest, he said in 2019 a note from the General Directorate of Internal Security, of the French government.
It began on the night of Friday, November 13, when a suicide bomber blew himself up after being prevented from entering the Stade de France, where around 80,000 people were watching a friendly between France and Germany, including the then-German French President François Hollande.
In addition to the terrorist, one person died. Over the next 40 minutes, shootings killed 39 customers in sidewalk cafes and restaurants in Paris’ 10th and 11th districts, and another 90 were killed in Bataclan. “They came in with automatic weapons and started shooting blindly. There was a wave of panic, everyone ran, many were trampled,” said journalist Julien Pierce, from Europe1 radio, who was at the venue that night. security forces stormed the site, two terrorists detonated explosives they were carrying in a belt, a third was killed by police officers.
Considered the only survivor of the group of ten men who attacked Paris, Salah Abdeslam, a 31-year-old Frenchman who was born in Belgium, will be one of the key defendants in the trial that begins on Wednesday. Police have hypothesized that he had given up on detonating his explosives as planned.
Abdeslam fled to Brussels, where he was arrested in early 2016. Days after his arrest, attacks killed 32 people and wounded 270 at the airport in Zaventem and at a metro station in the Belgian capital.
In early 2015, the French capital had already been the scene of 17 deaths in jihadist attacks, against the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket.
After the November massacre and the attack in Belgium, another ten terrorist attacks took place in Europe over the next two years, in Spain, the United Kingdom, Germany and Sweden, as well as in France itself.
Mohamed Abrini, 36, arrested for the Zaventem airport attack, will also be in the dock, along with 12 others accused of participating in the planning of the crimes. One defendant who is imprisoned in Turkey will be tried at a distance, and five others, senior members of the Islamic State, posthumously — agents say they believe they were killed in Iraq or Syria.
Of the 14 who will be in court, the Swede Osama Krayem was a member of an elite unit of the terrorist group and is considered one of the creators of the attacks.
Last year, when the attack turned five years old, associations emphasized the importance of remembering the victims and resisting the political use of these attacks. “France was hit in the heart, but the French remained standing. Standing to defend our freedoms and values, standing for all who have fallen and for all who are left. We will never forget the night of November 2015. We will not give up. Let’s stick together,” French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on a social network.
Less than a month earlier, history teacher Samuel Paty had been beheaded days after showing Muhammad cartoons during a free speech class. Drawing the figure of the founder of Islam is considered blasphemous by Muslims.
CHRONOLOGY OF ATTACKS ON NOVEMBER 13, 2015
– 9.20 pm (6:20 pm GMT) on Friday: Terrorists detonate explosives at gate D of the Stade de France, on the outskirts of Paris, where France and Germany are playing a friendly. Then president François Hollande was in the stands. In addition to the terrorist, the bomb killed one more person.
– 21:25: Customers at tables in Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant are victims of Kalashnikov rifle shots fired from a black Seat Leon vehicle, leaving 15 dead and another 10 injured.
– 9.30 pm: Outside the Stade de France, a second suicide bomber explodes, killing himself.
– 21:32: Shots in front of the A La Bonne Bière bar killed five people and seriously injured eight others. The shooters were in the same black car.
– 21:36: At 92 Charonne Street, new rifle fire from a car kills 19 people.
– 9.40 pm: At 253 Boulevard Voltaire, in the Comptoir Voltaire restaurant, a terrorist explodes, causing serious injuries to a person.
– 9.40 pm: A vehicle parks in front of the Bataclan concert hall. Three individuals with weapons of war descend. They invade the hall and fire blasts during a show. Terrorists take the audience in front of the stage hostage and mention Syria and Iraq; in all, 90 people are killed.
– 9:53 pm: A third suicide bomber explodes near the Stade de France.
– 23:30 Fans are allowed to leave the stadium. On the way out, part of them sings the anthem of France.
– 12:20 am Police forces invade the Bataclan. A terrorist is killed by a police shot. The other two detonate their explosives and die.