NPR logo

Analysts Parse Differences Between San Bernardino, Paris Attacks

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/466898543/466898558" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Analysts Parse Differences Between San Bernardino, Paris Attacks

National Security

Analysts Parse Differences Between San Bernardino, Paris Attacks

Analysts Parse Differences Between San Bernardino, Paris Attacks

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/466898543/466898558" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

For months, the San Bernardino, Calif., and Paris attacks have been reported together. Analysts say the two could not be more different, and ISIS' actions since those attacks has made that clear.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Let's consider for a moment the recent terror attacks in San Bernardino and in Paris. It's become common to lump the two together and see them as proof of the global reach of ISIS. But NPR's Dina Temple-Raston has been looking at the group's propaganda and found that ISIS reacted to those two attacks very differently. She asks whether Americans should too.

DINA TEMPLE-RASTON, BYLINE: Let's start with the San Bernardino attack. Days after a husband and wife team opened fire on an office holiday party this past December near Los Angeles, ISIS released a statement. It said the pair were followers of the group. A day or so later, ISIS called them supporters. Since then, there's been almost nothing - no video, no pictures, no tweets from ISIS - about that shooting. The impression is almost like the attack had little to do with them. Now contrast that with what ISIS produced after Paris.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO, "KILL THEM WHEREVER YOU FIND THEM")

TEMPLE-RASTON: A couple of weeks ago, a 17-minute, slickly produced video appeared online. It was a montage of news footage from the November 13 attacks. And ISIS had added their own sinister graphics. Let's hear from the video, and I'll explain why it's important.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO, "KILL THEM WHEREVER YOU FIND THEM")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Friday's terror attacks.

TEMPLE-RASTON: If you've seen any of the "Terminator" films, you'll recognize what they've done. Remember how the Terminator robot would look around and lay targets on everything he saw? The ISIS video slapped computer gun sights on top of the attack news footage. The group's message - ordinary Parisians who escaped the violence are still in the crosshairs.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO, "KILL THEM WHEREVER YOU FIND THEM")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: You heard - this is a loop. This is a 60-second loop video on Vine. You can hear that explosion as these...

TEMPLE-RASTON: Those scenes with superimposed gun sights continue for five minutes. Then the video's music swells and singing begins.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO, "KILL THEM WHEREVER YOU FIND THEM")

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Singing in French).

TEMPLE-RASTON: The lyrics are in French, making it clear who ISIS sees as the intended audience.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO, "KILL THEM WHEREVER YOU FIND THEM")

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Singing in French).

TEMPLE-RASTON: Here is what they're saying. We did this for Allah. The killings filled us with joy. And then the video cuts to the men we now recognize as the November 13 suicide attackers. But instead of the static mug shots we've seen till now, this video shows them alive in Syria in military fatigues.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO, "KILL THEM WHEREVER YOU FIND THEM")

ABULHAMID ABAAOUD: (Speaking French).

TEMPLE-RASTON: That's the voice of the man who's thought to have been sent by ISIS to personally manage the Paris attacks - his name, Abdulhamid Abaaoud. And he was killed in a shootout with police in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO, "KILL THEM WHEREVER YOU FIND THEM")

ABAAOUD: (Speaking French).

TEMPLE-RASTON: Those of us who came to Syria, he says, who dared to come, have now taken the fight home.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO, "KILL THEM WHEREVER YOU FIND THEM")

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Singing in French).

ABAAOUD: (Speaking French).

TEMPLE-RASTON: The video is important because it shows without a doubt that ISIS didn't just inspire the massacres in Paris. The group actually directed them. And it released the video to prove it. Which is why terrorism analysts will tell you talking about San Bernardino and Paris in the same breath is misplaced. ISIS clearly doesn't see the two attacks in the same way.

CLINT WATTS: So you see with the San Bernardino attacks, they were initially inspired possibly by al-Qaida or to go to Yemen.

TEMPLE-RASTON: Clint Watts is with the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia.

WATTS: The delineation for them is very difficult for them to even parse out and for us to understand. And while we oftentimes seek some explanation for where this violence is being motivated from, it's really from a persistent commitment to the idea of jihad.

TEMPLE-RASTON: San Bernardino appears to have been motivated by the idea of jihad. Analysts say the distinction's important because allowing ISIS to claim responsibility for any attack that mentions its name makes the group seem much more powerful than it actually is. Dina Temple-Raston, NPR News.

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

We no longer support commenting on NPR.org stories, but you can find us every day on Facebook, Twitter, email, and many other platforms. Learn more or contact us.