French Police Admit Mistakes In Response To Paris Terror Attacks

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After weeks of mourning, solemn commemorations and debate, France is finally turning its attention to the alleged shortcomings of its police response on the night of terror in Paris on November 13 when Islamist gunmen killed 130 people and injured several hundred.

Among questions being raised is why a specialised antiterrorist unit did not reach the Bataclan concert hall where 90 people were shot dead until half an hour after the attack had begun. And why did it take its officers nearly three hours to secure the venue?

Security forces that night confronted a nightmare no training exercise could have prepared them for, with three teams of terrorists running amok in the capital and six sites – including the national football stadium where President Francois Hollande was in danger – under attack almost simultaneously in the worst violence on French soil since the Second World War.

Police showed extraordinary courage, particularly the first officer to arrive at the concert hall 15 minutes into the attack. Armed with only a pistol, he managed to interrupt the murder of hostages by shooting one of the terrorists and forcing the other two gunmen to flee upstairs.

But unlike New York’s 9/11 attacks, from which firemen and police emerged as national heroes, the stars of a string of Islamist terror attacks in France last year have generally been civilians, including British and American passengers who helped to disarm an attacker brandishing an AK-47 on a train to Paris in August.

French commentators suggested the delayed response of the BRI, or Research and Intervention Brigade, reflected a highly centralised structure that may need to be adapted.

Some experts say more police patrols in Paris might have helped to end the killing more quickly.

“By the time the information gets out and reaches up, mobilising the specialised units takes a relatively long time,” said Christian Mouhanna, a security expert at France’s National Centre for Scientific Research.

“Our police are not organised along local lines. Everything has to filter up to the central organisation. The beat officers are not highly trained and so you’ve got to wait for the specialists to arrive.”

“We have a police force that is disconnected from the terrain,” said Mouhanna.

Read more in The Australian.

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