Iraq warned France of planned attacks by ISIS against Western targets, including France, a day before the coordinated series of attacks in Paris that killed 129 people, the Times of Israel is reporting.
— W Patrick Wilson (@DUhockeyFan) November 16, 2015
Speaking on condition of anonymity, four senior Iraq intelligence officials confirmed that they had sent a dispatch to France, the United States, and other Western nations of planned ISIS attacks against Western targets. The officials said they warned France specifically, even providing specific information about the Paris attacks. That information has not been made public as of this writing.
“We have recovered information from our direct sources in the Islamic State terrorist organization about the orders issued by terrorist Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi directing all members of the organization to implement an international attack that includes all coalition countries, in addition to Iran and the Russian Federation, through bombings or assassinations or hostage taking in the coming days. We do not have information on the date and place for implementing these terrorist operations at this time.”
Elaborating further, the Iraqi intelligence officials told the Associated Press that ISIS was training attackers in Raqqa, Syria — ISIS headquarters — specifically for the type of urban attack that took place last week in Paris and with the intention of sending the attackers to France. The attackers then contacted an ISIS sleeper cell in France and helped them with the attack. A senior France intelligence official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, stated that governments receive intelligence warnings about attacks “all the time” and “every day.”
“Every night, the head of French counterintelligence goes to bed asking ‘why not today?'”
France has been on heightened alert for Islamist extremism within its borders since January, when coordinated attacks on satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a nearby kosher grocery store killed 23 people, including the attackers. The attackers in the Charlie Hebdo massacre were linked to ISIS-backed extremists in Yemen.
At the time, French officials acknowledged “failings” in the country’s intelligence apparatus that may have allowed the terrorists behind the attacks to sneak through. Two brothers believed responsible for the attacks were both on the U.S. no-fly list due to ties to terrorist organizations, and one had already been convicted once before on terrorism charges and was known to be linked to Al Qaeda in Yemen.
However, intelligence officials in France are flooded with tens of thousands of bits of data every day — emails to and from suspected terrorists, their movements, etc. — and lack the resources to track them all. Further, they’re restricted from making arrests in the absence of clear evidence that a crime has been committed, or that someone is planning to commit a crime.
Despite their limitations, however, Bernard Bajolet, the president of France’s spy agency, insists that French intelligence operatives have “disrupted” some planned terrorist attacks in France.
“During the last month we have disrupted a certain number of attacks in our territory. But this doesn’t mean that we will be able all the time to disrupt such attacks.”
Meanwhile, French police, with help from other European nations, have carried out at least 160 counter-terrorism stings, according to the Washington Post, seizing cash and weapons from suspected terrorists. An intensive, multinational manhunt continues for an eighth suspect in last week’s attacks, identified as Abdeslam Salah.
French police issue warrant for terror suspect Abdeslam Salah – “individual is dangerous. Do not approach” pic.twitter.com/WF36pFGrbn
— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) November 15, 2015
As of this post, neither French nor U.S. officials have commented publicly on Iraq’s warning to France.
[Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images]