- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 14, 2015

The coordinated Paris attacks required a level of operational sophistication that Islamic extremist terrorists have not shown in Europe since the London suicide attacks in 2005 when four separate bombs, detonated in quick succession, targeted civilians on mass transit in the British capital.

Friday night’s attacks unfolded across six separate locations in Paris, killing 129 people and wounding 352, and counterterrorism officials are now scrambling to examine the number of operatives that were involved — along with how they managed to plot and execute the multi-pronged strike without detection by authorities.

The Syria- and Iraq-based Islamic State claimed responsibility on Saturday for the attacks, saying it sent militants strapped with suicide bombing belts and carrying machine guns to various locations in the heart of the French capital.

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Away from the operational sophistication factor, the strikes fit within a disturbing trend in which jihadist terrorists have become increasingly keen on hitting so-called “soft-targets,” such as shopping malls and restaurants, to inflict to inflict mass casualties.

For years, U.S. and European officials have watched in Iraq, Syria and other Mideast and African nations as terrorist attacks involving small arms and Islamist suicide bombers have hit low-security targets crowded with civilians — and fears have mounted that it was just a matter of time before those tactics reached the West.

Security analysts say that’s exactly what happened on Friday night in Paris, which was put under a level of siege unlike anything experienced in the French capital since World War II.

“We’re talking about multiple, simultaneous attacks,” said former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell, who stressed the significance of the “operational security of the operatives” who carried out Friday night’s carnage.

“We’re talking about a large group of them,” Mr. Morell, now a senior security correspondent with CBS News, said in an interview broadcast by the network on Friday night. “And they kept it secret — that’s a very difficult thing to do.”

“We haven’t seen that kind of sophistication since the London bombings.”

Mr. Morell noted the Islamic State has “been working on a capability to conduct attacks in Western Europe.”

The multiple assaults Friday night, meanwhile, showed a level of organization and planning far higher than the Charlie Hebdo attacks 10 months ago, in which gunmen laid siege to the satirical political cartoon magazine in Paris.

But it was al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula — not the Islamic State — that claimed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo attack, which left 11 people dead at the magazine in January.

U.S. officials have so far been reluctant to comment on the Islamic State’s claim of responsibility for Friday’s nights attacks, which bore similarities a host of soft-target attacks in the Middle East and in Africa during recent years.

Most notable was the September 2013 assault in Nairobi, Kenya, in which unidentified gunman laid seize to the Westgate shopping mall — an attack that resulted in at least 67 deaths. The extremist, Somalia-based terror group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for that attack.

U.S. officials have said no credible threat has been detected in the United States, relating to Friday’s attack in Paris.

But American law enforcement agencies are taking precautions in major U.S. cities.

The New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles police departments all reported deploying additional patrols to high-profile locations across their cities Friday night.

Officials at the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and across the U.S. intelligence community are monitoring the situation.

“At this time, there is no specific or credible threat to the United States,” a DHS official said on background on Friday night. “We will not hesitate to adjust our security posture, as appropriate, to protect the American people.”

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, Texas Republican, said in a statement that, “while we must always remain vigilant, there are no known, credible threats to the homeland at this time.”

Andrea Noble contributed to this article.

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