French Government Reportedly Knew Of Paris Attack Plans Before Friday

As information continues to unfold about the recent terrorist attacks in Paris that left an estimated 130 civilians dead, the question on everybody's mind is: How could this happen  —  again?

When the Charlie Hebdo offices were attacked in January, French president Francois Hollande promised to protect the citizens of his victimized country.

But recent events tell a different story.

On Friday evening, eight or more assailants launched attacks in six areas of Paris at almost the exact same time. The coordinated nature of the assaults, coupled with Hollande's declaration just hours later that ISIS was at fault, seemed to indicate that the French government may have had some foreknowledge of the terrorists' plans.

It's not uncommon for government agencies to receive intel about attacks before they happen; that's the basis of all counterterrorism efforts. But they're supposed to intervene  —  and on Friday, they failed to.

One Western diplomat confirmed to BuzzFeed News, the French government was aware of plans to attack the French capital. He said,

We were expecting something. We knew it was coming. The fact that we failed to stop it is definitely a failure. But you can't imagine the number of attacks we have stopped. This was the nightmare scenario. The targets were all soft targets. How can you protect against people determined to attack a bar or concert?

How, indeed?

One of the assailants involved in Friday's attacks was previously known to French authorities for his ties to terrorist organizations. And in August, French authorities detained a Syrian man who warned extremists were planning attacks on French concert halls, like the Bataclan.

But knowing who may be involved and stopping the attacks are two different matters entirely.

French surveillance expert Alain Charret warns,

The reason why it is usually difficult to track people is because one or two people on their own are involved.

Charret concedes that, because multiple assailants were involved in the recent attacks, it should have been easy to track. The fact that the assailants weren't tracked speaks to a much larger concern: What are French counterterrorism units missing, and how can they fix these oversights before the next tragedy?

Citations: Paris Attacks Raise Questions About What French Authorities Knew And Why They Failed (BuzzFeed)