Just the beginning: U.K. warns al-Qaeda in Syria planning mass casualty attacks in West

According to CNN’s reporting, the series of bloody attacks on journalists and police in Paris over the course of this week has “electrified” the global jihadist movement. The suspicion that the two brothers who were responsible for the assault on the offices of Charlie Hebdo also had links to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is likely to boost recruiting and fundraising efforts for that terrorist group.

A resurgent al-Qaeda is already reportedly planning to follow up on the success of the Parisian attacks in the coming days. According to a warning from Britain’s MI5 intelligence service that was made public on Thursday, al-Qaeda militants are planning a renewed campaign of spectacular attacks in the West. Those are expected to be directed against transportation systems and “iconic targets.”

Via Reuters:

Speaking after gunmen killed 12 people in an assault on a French satirical newspaper, MI5 boss Andrew Parker warned a strike on the United Kingdom was highly likely.

“A group of core al Qaeda terrorists in Syria is planning mass casualty attacks against the West,” Director General Parker said in a rare public speech at MI5 headquarters in London. His last public speech was in October 2013.

In the speech, planned before the killings in Paris, Parker said seasoned al Qaeda militants in Syria aimed to “cause large-scale loss of life, often by attacking transport systems or iconic targets” in the West.

This revelation that al-Qaeda is planning to return to a strategy that targets infrastructure and landmarks would seem to mark a departure from reliance on low-tech “lone wolf” terrorists. That paradigm may be misleading, however, as the Paris attack indicates that only loosely affiliated terrorist actors with access to sophisticated armaments and training can execute spectacular attacks all on their own.

According to the deceased French attackers, their actions were part of an al-Qaeda operation (though it is unclear if it was ordered and directed by operatives in the Middle East):

American intelligence sources, who spoke with The Daily Beast, are now indicating that this operation was no lone wolf attack.

The cumulative intelligence to date strongly points toward al Qaeda as, at the least, inspiring the Kouachi brothers to take up their killing spree. U.S. and French intelligence and law-enforcement officials have been poring over records in an attempt to learn more about the two suspected gunmen. A U.S. intelligence official told The Daily Beast that the men have been on the government’s no-fly list, which would ban them from traveling on a U.S. airliner, “for years,” declining to specify how long. The FBI has also been searching its records for any information that could assist the French investigation, a spokesperson added.

The brothers themselves claimed during the attack to be a part of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, the group’s Yemeni branch. And an al Qaeda magazine geared toward jihadis living in the West called for the assassination of the the editor of the satirical Charlie Hebdo magazine, the first victim of the Paris attack.

“Also under review, intelligence sources told The Daily Beast, is any connection the brothers may have to a Frenchman named David Drugeon, who became the chief bombmaker for a unit of al Qaeda called the Khorasan Group, which operates in Syria,” the report read.

Right now, the links between AQAP, Syrian al-Qaeda, and the French attackers are tenuous, but they are not nonexistent either. The War on Terror is not over, and al-Qaeda is not “on the run.”

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