Investigators continue to uncover an increasing number of links between the terrorists who targeted Paris in November, killing 130 people, and those who bombed the Brussels airport and Maelbeek metro station last month, killing 32.
And today, we learn of this especially chilling one: the attacks in Brussels were originally planned to hit Paris again. Plans were urgently changed at the last minute due to the speed of the ongoing investigation.
Via The New York Times:
Belgian authorities announced on Sunday that the group of attackers who targeted the Brussels airport and metro on March 22 had initially planned to hit France.
The Belgian federal prosecutor’s office said in a statement that “numerous elements in the investigation have shown that the terrorist group initially had the intention to strike in France again.”
“Eventually, surprised by the speed of the progress in the ongoing investigation, they urgently took the decision to strike in Brussels,” the statement said.
The specific targets in Paris were La Défense, the large office and commercial complex that is just to the northwest of Paris, as well as an unidentified Catholic association, said Claude Moniquet, a former French intelligence officer who now works in Belgium and who has been in regular contact with investigators.
Two of the men who took part in the Nov. 13 attacks in and around Paris, and who died in a police raid days later, had also been planning an assault on La Défense, the Paris prosecutor said at the time. The Islamic State, which has claimed responsibility for the Paris and Brussels attacks, had also mentioned an assault in the 18th Arrondissement of Paris in November, but the exact location was never clear and no strikes ever occurred.
La Défense would be both a symbolic target and an important economic one for terrorists. Tens of thousands of people work in the large complex, which includes the office towers of many of France’s major companies, including Areva, Total and Société Générale. Many multinational companies also have substantial offices there.
La Défense is also home to a sprawling indoor shopping mall, as well as a train station for two of the busiest commuter lines in the Paris region.
As the workplace of tens of thousands, and home to huge shopping mall and busy commuter train station, one shudders to think of the potential carnage an attack on La Defense could wreak.
This new information reveals the frightening, if not surprising, reality that even as investigators thwart one potential attack, these barbarians are planning another one to replace it, even against the same target. And suggests in a most graphic way the risky business that progress in stopping them can potentially unleash expedited attacks in new places. You may recall that the Belgian attacks had been planned for Easter but were moved up for similar reasons.
Like cornered animals — though I think “animals” is too kind a label to put on these beasts — these terrorist groups may be most dangerous as their existence becomes increasingly threatened.
[Note: This article was written by Michelle Jesse, Associate Editor]