A former FBI counter terrorism expert claims the bloody Nov. 13 Paris attack wasn’t a full-fledged assault, but a cold-blooded ISIS “test” to assess its ability to launch small, randomized attacks in a major Western city.
That expert, Eric O’Neill, told The Daily Caller News Foundation that ISIS was testing the model he called, “small randomized attacks” when it went on a shooting and bombing spree throughout Paris, killing 129 people and wounding another 352.
“I think this was a test to see how well this could work in a city. Can we coordinate it? Can we effectively carry it out,” O’Neill told TheDCNF. “My sense is they are benchmarking themselves. They are going to see if this could be deployed somewhere else because if this was a test, then they passed.”
The same test “could have happened in a Washington, D.C. or New York, or Los Angeles and San Francisco, yeah, easily,” he said.
In February 2001, O’Neill helped capture the most notorious spy in United States history, Robert Phillip Hanssen. In the three months preceding Hanssen’s arrest, O’Neill worked with the spy within the newly minted information assurance division, created to protect all classified FBI intelligence. O’Neill was charged with gaining Hanssen’s trust and then using that relationship to slowly draw the traitor out of deep cover.
O’Neill believes the U.S. is next on the terrorist group’s target list. He said it is now more likely in the post-attack assessment stage.
ISIS leaders are probably saying, “let’s go back to the white board. Let’s figure out what we did wrong and what we did right? How could we do better,” he said.
Another counter terrorism analyst who requested anonymity agreed, telling TheDCNF that ISIS has abandoned the al-Qaida model, which targeted “symbolic” targets such as the World Trade Center and the Pentagon which were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001.
The ISIS model is to target smaller, “softer” venues that are hard to protect like bars, restaurants, concert halls and public events.
O’Neill said the tactic generates fear because when random attacks occur, no place is safe. “Small randomized attacks cause a much greater sense of terror than one large attack.”
The new tactic maximizes fear “because you don’t know where the next one is going to hit,” O’Neill told TheDCNF.
Not everything went well for the terrorists, according to O’Neil. The bombers at the soccer stadium arrived late and detonated themselves outside.
“If he had been there a little earlier, he might have gone in. It would have been far more devastating,” O’Neill said. “My sense is the coordination was off. They started the other shootings too early, or the one with the main bomb at the stadium was too late.”
The random attacks kept French police off balance. “So you attack one place. They run. They attack another place. They pop up somewhere else. And they keep going until authorities finally catch up with them.”
O’Neill’s analysis fits the final police description of what happened on that Friday night. The attackers first opened fire on Petit Cambodge, a Cambodian Restaurant, then went to other side of the street at Le Carillion bar. Fifteen died there at both restaurants.
The next attack from the same shooters came 500 yards away at the Casa Nostra pizzeria, then drove to LaBelle Equipe bar, killing at least 19.
“Here we have a group that sowed a small, effective operation in Paris, and I believe that the intent was to keep going until they got caught.”
O’Neill added that the shooters were well trained and took careful aim at their victims.
“Apparently the shooter took a professional shooter stance. Clearly he was trained. Rifle to shoulder. He was not doing his typical mob movie culture ‘head spray’ to do as much damage as possible. He was aiming his shots, shot after shot, preserving ammo and getting the highest kill count possible,” he said.
Two other separate groups hit the soccer stadium. But most media attention was on the holding of hostages at the Bataclan concert venue where at least 89 were killed, many one-by-one execution style.
O’Neill says while most of the media centered its coverage at the concert hall, the reason for the citywide lockdown was because of the mobile shooters. “We saw law enforcement presence all over because they were still hunting down the guys they hadn’t caught. They didn’t want to tell anyone that because they didn’t want to increase the fear. I think that was going on,” he told TheDCNF.
“What they did in Paris which was genius, if you were a terrorist,” he said.
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