France's 9/11? Paris attacks alter our assessment of Islamic State threat

Was this the so-called Islamic State’s ‘9/11 moment’? Suddenly, the assessment of what IS is and does has changed.

Until now, the assumption of European governments was that the group existed primarily to expand its territory – it’s ‘caliphate’. Western security services suspected that although IS sought to inspire attacks abroad, it was far less interested in directing them.

But the latest French intelligence appears to indicate something else.

France is on its highest level of alert following the atrocities. Credit: Reuters

President Hollande said of the attacks: “It’s an act of war perpetrated by a terrorist army, Daesh [IS], against France, against a free country… These attacks were prepared, planned from the outside, with internal complicity” he said in an address to the nation.

Earlier in the short history of IS, the idea of commissioning suicide bombers in France didn’t seem to be part of their raison d'etre. But this is IS version 2.0. And it appears that things have changed.

British emergency services held a training exercise in London in June. Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Archive/PA Images

Here in the UK, senior police officers in Britain have long feared the sort of co-ordinated, marauding attacks that were carried out in Mumbai in 2008. In June, 1,000 police officers were involved in a training exercise – a ‘dress rehearsal’ – for that sort of assault.

The Paris attacks were certainly the most sophisticated that IS has claimed – and perhaps the most co-ordinated terrorist attack in the West since 9/11. They might have redefined the threat we are perceived to face, and underlined the growing, global ambitions of IS.