As the world with grappling with another large scale ISIS attack in Brussels, there is vital information to be learned about ISIS from the Paris attacks it conducted in November. Three major points stick out from the ISIS attacks in Paris that are worth noting and considering as we better try to understand and predict them. First, its choice of explosives and what it means. The New York Times Reported, “Officials involved in the investigation say that the residue from the explosive used in the bistro tested positive for a peroxide-based explosive, triacetone triperoxide, or TATP. It has become the signature explosive for Islamic State operations in Europe, and it can be made with common products — hair bleach and nail polish remover — easily found over the counter across Europe.” ISIS’s use of easily available goods to make bombs makes it very difficult to trace anything and keeps it under the radar of officials, making it the perfect choice. However, this is not the only thing we can conclude from its use of TATP. Peter Bergen, the director of the National Securities said recently,” Their ingredients, when combined, are highly unstable and can explode easily if mishandled. To make an effective TATP bomb requires real training, which suggests a relatively skilled bomb-maker was involved in the Paris plot, since the terrorists detonated several bombs.” Its use of TATP is a testament of the skills of their bomb makers.
Second, unlike its predecessor, ISIS does not seem to care about where they hit. Traditionally, terrorist group have been known to hit sites significant to the people of the country, Jewish museums and synagogues, embassies and security establishments. This represented not only a physical attack but also a further blow as an attack on ideology and sentiment. ISIS on the other hand is targeting with only one purpose, creating carnage. As the New York Times reported, “In an interview published in the online magazine, a senior ISIS operative identified as Boubaker al-Hakim, described as the godfather of French jihadists, advised his followers to abandon the symbolism: “My advice is to stop looking for specific targets. Hit everyone and everything.” They do not care if the place they are hitting holds no significant symbolism and they do not care about what demographic of people they are hitting, they just do it. This makes it immensely difficult to predict what ISIS will target next.
Third, the use of disposable phones with no previous activity, that is generally activated a few hours before the attack and only communicates with other disposable phones, makes it further difficult to track ISIS attackers. Discovered disposable phones indicate no other activity other than specific activation of a phone at a certain time and a very systematic and disciplined use. Attackers have also been known to use victim’s phone to contact their counterparts. ISIS operatives do not leave room for slip up by sending each other messages through chat or giving access to any private information through its phone. This is a testament of the rigid discipline of ISIS attackers and their discovery of techniques enabling them to hide right under everyone’s noses.