On Friday, January 9, 2015, after 53 hours, French security forces shot the three French terrorists, all of whom died on the scene.

Security police and the waiting game

During the final hours of the siege, I tuned into the BBC’s news channel. The commentators who are security experts said that the police had to take their time, otherwise more carnage could result.

The terrorists would have been running on adrenaline for much of the time. They would have to calm down before the police could arrest or kill them. Hence, the lengthy stand-offs at the small printing plant in Dammarin-sur-Goële north of Paris and at the Kosher hypermarket in Vincennes, just east of the capital.

Although the terrorists were well-trained and comfortable killing innocent people in cold blood, they were not perfect in their crime. Saïd Kouachi, one of the Charlie Hebdo assassins, accidentally left his ID in the first car he and his brother Chérif stole in the getaway. Chérif’s fingerprints were all over one of the Molotov cocktails found in the same vehicle.

Paris’s prosecutor, François Molins, released their names to the media on Wednesday night. However, Le Monde reported on Friday that he was disappointed that all the media outlets began broadcasting the suspects’ names. Molins said he was hoping the police could surprise them instead. In which case, why did he reveal the names in the first place? Perhaps this is a lesson for police departments for the future.

There were 82,000 French police and military special forces involved in tracing these three suspects or protecting the public. The Kouachi brothers fled Paris to the north, stopping in Picardy and the Champagne regions. They then drove south and were in the huge forest of Retz for a time before stopping at the printing plant on Friday.

Another 78,350 police from the rest of the country were deployed in their local areas. The government’s anti-terrorist Plan Vigipirate is still in operation and no doubt will be for the foreseeable future.

The immediate operation tracking down the Kouachi brothers and their associate Amedy Coulibaly had to be well co-ordinated in order to make it as safe as possible for the hostages. The security experts on the BBC news channel lauded the efforts of the police at both sites, particularly at the printing plant. The Kouachis had not harmed their hostage and, at the end of the siege, he was reportedly in good health.

It is difficult in a hostage situation not to have an injury or death. Coulibaly killed four people at the kosher hypermarket. Two young children were there at the time. The day before, south of Paris, Coulibaly killed Clarissa Jean-Philippe, a police officer who had only been in the job for 13 days. It is thought that Coulibaly had intended to attack a Jewish school in the neighbourhood.

Security experts on the BBC found the French police work in co-ordinating the final minutes of the siege praiseworthy for the short period of time between the shootings at the printing plant and the supermarket. Too long a gap after the printing plant would have had an adverse effect on Coulibaly’s siege at the supermarket.

Troubled backgrounds

Before becoming involved with Islamic extremists, Chérif Kouachi hung around with a group of his peers and committed petty larceny involving theft and small-scale drug trafficking. He was known for his violence and impulsiveness. He was closest to Saïd. Their parents are no longer alive, although they have a sister and a brother.

Their friends in the 19th arrondissement of Paris followed Chérif’s lead in becoming involved in radical Islam.

In his youth, Coulibaly, originally from the Paris suburb of Juvisy-sur-Orge, also engaged in theft and drug trafficking. A psychiatric report prepared for a Parisian court stated that he had

an “immature and psychopathic personality” and “poor powers of introspection”.[3]

His wife, Hayat Boumeddiene, is still on the run and is thought to have left France just days before the attacks. She, too, had a difficult childhood:

She told detectives in 2010: “I was placed in care at the age of 12, because I did not accept the speed with which my father remarried after the death of my mother. I changed carers numerous times because I was beaten often.”

These four, as well as Cherif Kouachi’s wife — and their friends — saw extreme Islam as the answer to their problems.

Extreme anything — religion or politics — doesn’t really solve any problems. It merely results in death and destruction. That seems to be motivation enough for people of troubled backgrounds.

This is why a good family environment is so important.

Tomorrow’s post will look at the demonstration and march in Paris which took place on Sunday, January 11.

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