January 12, 2015 | Quoted by Joshua Keating - Slate

Are Paris-Style Attacks the Future of Terrorism?


“I would place [the Paris attack] into the ‘urban warfare’ model of attacks,” said Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and co-author of a 2012 report commissioned by the U.S. Congress on the use of small arms by terrorists. “First, it’s an attack that’s designed to make use of a broader urban area as a battleground. Second, the attackers intend to survive long enough to extend this out over a couple of days, thus to prolong the terror and keep a place feeling skittish. Urban warfare attacks also often involve taking hostages in one place or another.”

The first example of such an attack on a city at peace was Mumbai in 2008, when about two dozen militants from the Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Taiba attacked multiple locations in the Indian city, firing on civilians, setting off explosives, and taking hostages. The attacks “were perceived as being hugely successful, and al-Qaida has been talking about how to emulate this for some time,” said Raffaello Pantucci, a terrorism analyst at the Royal United Services Institute in London. In 2010, intelligence services of the United States, Britain, France, and Germany claimed to have disrupted a plan to carry out “Mumbai-style” attacks on several European cities.

The good news is that in order for urban-warfare-style attacks to be really effective, they require multiple participants and some amount of coordination. That means they’re easier to catch before they happen. “It requires plotters, not just a plotter, and Western intelligence services are better at stopping groups,” says Gartenstein-Ross.

“Lone wolf” attacks, like those seen in Canada and Australia in recent weeks, are much harder to detect ahead of time but also usually less effective. Though as numerous non-jihadist American shooters have demonstrated in recent years, a lone gunman can also cause a frightening amount of damage under the right circumstances.

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