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January Today in Terrorism

January 8, 2015: Killing of policewoman in France

On this day in 2015 Ahmed Coulibaly, a French Islamist terrorist, shot dead an unarmed policewoman, Clarissa Jean-Philippe, in the Paris suburb of Montrouge

MONTROUGE, FRANCE – Some terrorists go on killing sprees which last days, raising the question whether they could have been stopped earlier.

If you look at the vast majority of terrorist attacks that occur around the world you will be struck by one fact: they are over in a flash (sometimes, as in the case of IEDs or suicide bombers, they are literally over in a flash!).

In other words, terrorists usually strike and leave, or strike and die immediately. They do not tend to hunker down for long sieges, although there certainly are cases of that: the 2008 Mumbai attacks are a very good example of a rare attack that spanned four days.

Hey, where is everybody?? Does no one want to get killed? (Photo: Sebastian D’souza/Mumbai Mirror, via Associated Press)

A siege is one thing: a series of seemingly unconnected attacks over several days is quite another. Today’s featured incident is a good example.

On this day in 2015

Ahmed Coulibaly, a French Islamist terrorist, shot dead an unarmed policewoman, Clarissa Jean-Philippe, in the Paris suburb of Montrouge. Coulibaly had also been suspected of shooting a jogger the day before: in the end this attack may have been the handiwork of another terrorist.

I heard a gunshot but I thought it was construction. This shows it can happen anywhere. It happened next to us. We always think it will happen somewhere else.

Local resident Linda Pluchon

Coulibaly went on to take hostages at a Jewish market in Porte de Vincennes, demanding the release of Said and Cherif Kouachi who had carried out the shooting at Charlie Hebdo attack, a day earlier. He claimed to be part of Islamic State (ISIS).

French commandoes stormed the shop and killed Coulibaly. French authorities also think that Coulibaly’s wife, Hayat Boumedienne, helped him plan his attacks. She was at large for years but was eventually caught, tried and sentenced to 30 years in jail just two weeks ago (December 16, 2020).

The three crimes attributed to Coulibaly seem random and disconnected. They are all, nevertheless, tied to what Islamist terrorists seek to do: kill those they see as the ‘enemies of Islam’. Which means just about everyone.

If he had been caught after the initial shooting of the jogger, the police officer may still be alive and the Jewish hostage taking may not have occurred. Maybe French intelligence and law enforcement already knew about Coulibaly. Maybe, in the eyes of some, they screwed up.

I tend to stay away from these ‘what if’ accusations, often levelled by those with little or no experience in these matters. Shit happens, despite the best of efforts by those paid to protect us (and no, I am not dismissing the tragic loss of life). Cops and spies cannot be everywhere all the time and have far too much on their plates in the first place (they also rarely get credit for their success and far too much blame for their alleged ‘failures’).

Besides, as the saying goes, if my grandmother had wheels she’d be a bus.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. and Programme Director for the Security, Economics and Technology (SET) hub at the University of Ottawa’s Professional Development Institute (PDI). Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of five books on terrorism.

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