It remains unclear whether the Charlie Hebdo attack was another "lone-wolf" operation or whether it was panned and directed external extremist groups, the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) questioned in a report issued Friday.
The circumstances surrounding the attack by three gunmen on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo are still unfolding and authoritative commentary is hard to produce, according to the influential strategic think tank here.
One of the suspects has turned himself in and the two remaining suspects, French nationals of Algerian origin with jihadist antecedents, are the subject of a nationwide manhunt, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) said in a report.
As is so often the case, it was a piece of luck - one of the attackers left his ID card in the first getaway car - that gave the French authorities their break, Nigel Inkster, Director of National Threats and political risk at the Institute, the author of the study, said.
The expert noted that it remains unclear whether a separate shooting of a policewoman yesterday, also in Paris, has any connection with what took place last Wednesday.
But during the course of 2014 France witnessed a number of jihadist-related attacks seemingly of the lone-wolf variety, and there has been a growing awareness of a rising terrorist threat, IISS added.
The perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo attack are reported as having identified themselves with 'al-Qaeda in Yemen (sic)' and gave their motive as avenging the Prophet Mohamed.
This connection with al-Qaeda - presumably al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which has some track record of attempting terrorist attacks in the West and whose leader Nasir al-Wuhayshi is al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri's second-in-command - however, remains unproven.
Moreover, one of the wanted men, Cherif Kouachi, has a track record of jihadist activities which involves sending fighters to al-Qaeda in Iraq, the forerunner of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
It remains unclear whether the Charlie Hebdo attack was another "lone-wolf" operation or whether it was externally panned and directed either by AQAP or ISIL, the study said.
Initial French intelligence reporting shared with counterpart services suggested that no external link was evident.
But the discipline and professionalism shown by the attackers suggests a degree of training not normally associated with lone wolves, the strategic expert suggested.
The fact that this attack was able to be carried out by individuals already on the French intelligence radar screen at a time of enhanced threat perception is particularly worrying. France's security service - formerly the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST), now the Direction Gأ©nأ©rale de la Sأ©curitأ© Intأ©rieure (DGSI) - enjoys a high reputation among counterpart organisations for professional competence.
But the fact that they were unable to anticipate or prevent the attack testifies to the difficulties of dealing with a new fragmented terrorism faced by Europe and the West.
In this new environment externally directed efforts to replicate the large-scale mass-casualty attacks epitomised by 9/11 have largely been replaced by attacks of much less ambition which are easier to carry out and harder to detect or prevent and yet which attract high levels of publicity - the so-called 'propaganda of the deed'.
The situation is further exacerbated by the fact that the emergence of ISIL on the world stage with the declaration of a caliphate has put it on a collision course with an al-Qaeda that seeks to promote a universalist rather than a regionally-based agenda.
There must be a risk that al-Qaeda will seek to re-establish its somewhat tarnished credentials by undertaking attacks of its own.
Beyond the immediate shock generated by the Paris attacks there is a wider concern about the implications for communal relations in a Europe whose long period of economic stagnation has witnessed a significant rise in extremist political parties with differing ideologies, but sharing a common rhetoric of opposition to immigration and multi-culturalism.
In such a climate there is little capacity or inclination to distinguish between Islam and Islamism.
Beyond dealing with the immediate aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attack and seeking to prevent further such episodes, the French government will have to think carefully about how to manage a possible anti-Islamic backlash in a country whose Islamic minority already feels marginalised and excluded and affected by radicalisation.
Most major European states, and in particular those involved in the current campaign against ISIL, face similar vulnerabilities, the report warned.
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