French authorities have ended a hostage crisis that began earlier today when an armed man held up a supermarket in Trèbes. The French government has identified the assailant as Redouane Lakdim, who had a criminal past and may have traveled to Syria.
The attacker reportedly killed at least three people during the course of the day’s events. The first victim was killed when he attempted to hijack a car and two more perished inside the supermarket, according to the Associated Press.
The Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency quickly claimed responsibility for the slayings, saying the perpetrator was a “soldier” of the group who acted in response to calls to target nations participating in the anti-ISIS coalition. France is a member of the international coalition, which has been targeting the so-called caliphate since 2014.
Amaq has employed identical language after attacks in the past, repeatedly claiming that individuals have heeded the Islamic State’s calls for violence inside the West. Amaq did not provided any additional details about the attacker, but initial press reports say he claimed allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s enterprise.
French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb provided updates on the hostage crisis via his official Twitter feed. Collomb praised the “heroism” of a French officer who volunteered to trade places with one of the hostages, adding that the policeman was “badly wounded.” Collomb told the press that Lakdim acted “alone” and had been shot by the police, according to BFMTV. However, it can often take time for authorities to follow all of the clues in terrorism-related cases. And officials have uncovered ties between jihadists in Europe and Islamic State networks on multiple occasions in the past.
According to BBC News, Lakdim demanded the release of Salah Abdeslam, an Islamic State member who acted as a point man for the Nov. 2015 attacks in Paris. Abdeslam is being tried in Belgium on terrorism charges.
Islamic State-connected attacks in France
France has been combating the jihadist threat since the 1990s, but the rise of the Islamic State in 2014 generated a new array of threats.
In Jan. 2015, the Kouachi brothers massacred the staff of Charlie Hebdo at the magazine’s offices in Paris. The Kouachis were openly loyal to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which claimed responsibility for the attack. AQAP had called on jihadists to strike Charlie Hebdo after the publication printed controversial images. AQAP also assisted at least one of the brothers.
Amedy Coulibaly, a friend of the Kouachis, decided to raid a kosher market in Paris around the same time they acted. Coulibaly swore allegiance to the Islamic State in a video he recorded prior to killing a French policewoman and assaulting the market.
In Nov. 2015, a team of terrorists dispatched from Iraq and Syria assaulted multiple points in the city of Paris, killing 130 people and wounding hundreds more. It was the largest attack carried out by the Islamic State in France and on European soil to-date.
But counterterrorism officials have worked around the clock to thwart a series of plots inside France since then. Some smaller-scale plots have have been successful.
In June 2016, an Islamic State loyalist named Larossi Abballa committed a brutal double murder in Magnanville, France, which is less than 40 miles north of Paris. Abballa stabbed a police officer and his partner to death, recounting the horror show for the Islamic State’s audience and the rest of the world in a video that was posted online.
On Bastille Day (July 14), 2016, an Islamic State supporter drove a truck through a crowd celebrating the holiday in Nice, France. More than 80 people were killed and hundreds more wounded.
Later that same month (July 2016), a pair of Islamic State supporters killed a priest at a church in Normandy. The two young jihadists recorded a video in which they pledged allegiance to Baghdadi. Amaq quickly edited and disseminated the footage online.
Then, on Oct. 1, 2017, the Islamic State claimed that is “soldier” stabbed two women to death at the Saint-Charles train station in Marseille, France.
Amaq’s statement today closely mirrors the language used in its statement after some of these previous attacks.
At least some of these smaller-scale plots have been directed by the Islamic State’s remote guides, who have been targeted in the US-led coalition’s air campaign in Iraq and Syria.