A new Islamic State video features the perpetrators of last year’s Paris attacks, highlighting the men’s jihadist credentials as it shows them carrying out hostage executions and speaking of plans to strike the West.
The sleekly produced video, which mixes news footage with gruesome on-air beheadings, adds to an evolving picture of how the Nov. 13 attacks were planned and how they fit into the Islamic State’s strategy for exporting its extremist campaign.
The video features nine militants the Islamic State says were responsible for the coordinated assaults, which killed 130 diners and concert-goers in the French capital, showing them training or handling prisoners in Islamic State territory.
Among them is Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected ringleader of the attacks who, like other attackers, grew up in Europe before becoming radicalized and traveling to fight with the Islamic state in Syria. Abaaoud died during a standoff with French police several days after the attacks.
“By Allah, as long as you continue to direct airstrikes against us, and as long as you continue to declare war and fight the Muslims, we will not stop fighting you in every part of the world, regardless of whether you are on a tourism trip or a work trip or are fast asleep in your homes,” Abaaoud said.
“So expect more,” he said. “Expect a mujahid to show up to kill you.” Abaaoud and the other militants are identified using a nom de guerre.
While U.S. and European officials already believed the plans were at least partly planned in Syria, the video reinforces the perpetrators’ battlefield experience. By showing that the attackers came to Paris hardened by fighting and executions in Syria, the video further sets those attacks apart from other violence inspired by the Islamic State, such as the mass attack in San Bernardino, Calif., in December.
The couple responsible for the San Bernardino attacks appears to have drawn inspiration from the Islamic State but did not have any experience training or fighting with the group.
Ilan Goldenberg, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, said the video is significant because it confirms the belief that the attacks were carried out by militants close to the core of Islamic State operations, rather than supporters on the organization’s periphery.
Goldenberg said that conclusion should also be “reassuring” to officials in the West.
“Centrally planned is a good thing, because it again seems to show that to pull off these major attacks you do need” a high level of involvement from the organization itself. And a threat emanated from the group’s base in Iraq and Syria, compared to threats from home-grown radicals in the West, are “easier to stop,” he said.
Most of Abaaoud’s fellow militants wear military fatigues and speak in an unidentified desert location in the 17-minute video, which SITE said was distributed via Twitter and Telegram,.
One of them, Bilal Hadfi, a 20-year-old French national also known to have traveled to Syria from Europe. Hadfi addresses the camera as he stands behind a prisoner in an orange jumpsuit who, like other captives, is identified only as an “apostate.” He then beheads the man.
Several other hostages are beheaded on camera. One is shot in the head.
According to the group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, a watchdog organization, one of the men executed in the video was from al-Taqba, a town near Raqqa. The group said the man, known as Hamouda al-Qasaab, ran a currency exchange store and was arrested after running afoul of the Islamic State.
It’s not clear why the Islamic State is releasing the video more than two months after the Paris attacks, but it represent an attempt to perpetuate the propaganda impact of the Nov. attacks, which galvanized European leaders and triggered fear across the West.
Another militant, identified as Abu Qital al-Faransi, spoke in the video of striking “in the heart of Paris.” It’s unclear whether he was referring to specific plans to attack Paris in November or something more general.
He also urged Muslims in France to strike out against those around them. “Take action,” he said. “Wake up before it’s too late and they begin slaughtering you.”
The video concludes by showing images of British Prime Minister David Cameron and says that those who stand with “infidels” will be targeted for our swords and will fall in humiliation.”