French President Francois Hollande addressed his nation following police battles with the Charlie Hebdo terrorists, confirming that four hostages were killed, along with three of the perpetrators. “I want to salute the police and all those who participated in the operations,” said Hollande, as quoted by the UK Guardian. “I want to tell them we are proud of you.”
Hollande promised that enhanced security would be deployed by the government “to guarantee that we can live quietly, in peace, so that at no moment we will be subject to risk and threats, but we must remain vigilant.” An earlier BBC report said Hollande made reassuring the nervous French populace a top priority for his government ministers, not only because of the spectacular denouement of the Charlie Hebdo outrage, but because a number of other threats still unrevealed to the public have been thwarted by French security forces recently.
“Unity is our best weapon,” declared Hollande, calling on France to be “firm against racism and antisemitism.” He was forthright in describing the deadly siege of the kosher grocery in Vincennes today as a “terrifying anti-semitic attack.” Other actions taken by the police today suggested the government had reasons to suspect further anti-Semitic actions might have been taken, including the shutdown of a popular shopping district right before the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath would have filled them with shoppers.
Hollande also declared that the “fanatics” who carried out the Charlie Hebdo attack and its bloody aftermath “had nothing to do with the Muslim religion.”
The New York Times considers the possible political fallout for the Hollande government, which wasn’t in great shape before this drama began:
During the attack on the newspaper, the assailants identified themselves as being part of Al Qaeda and shouted, “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is great.” Their blatant embrace of Islam during an act of violence has been seized on by those who have been warning about a gulf between Islam and the values of the West.
The events are already resonating in French politics and could embolden the ascendant far-right National Front, which has railed against the failure of immigrants, and Muslims in particular, to integrate into French society.
They could further damage the standing of Mr. Hollande, one of the most unpopular presidents in recent French history, who was already confronting a struggling economy and questions about his leadership.
The attacks have also spawned fears among Muslims. In the hours after the newspaper was targeted, two Muslim places of worship were shot at, and there was an explosion at a kebab shop in eastern France. No one was hurt in those assaults.
There are still some loose ends from today’s chaos in Paris, most notably the still-at-large female accomplice of the kosher grocery terrorist, Hayat Boumeddiene. Some reports have asserted that a second, male accomplice may be on the loose. If the claims of one gunman that his activities were sanctioned and funded by al-Qaeda prove true, there could be more trouble on the way. Late reports indicate that an al-Qaeda representative in Yemen has claimed “the leadership of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula directed the operations, and they have chosen their target carefully.” British intelligence speaks of increased al-Qaeda chatter about attacks that would inflict “mass casualties” and hit “iconic targets” in the Western world, possibly including airplanes or other mass transit services.