Experts warn over hasty link to Paris attacks

Saturday's deadly attacks in Copenhagen bore several similarities to last month's assault in Paris, experts said, but warned about drawing direct parallels.

Experts warn over hasty link to Paris attacks
French President Francois Hollande leaves the Embassy of Denmark in Parison Sunday. Photo: AFP/Thomas Samson/Scanpix
French President Francois Hollande said Sunday that the "same targets" were hit in the weekend attacks in Copenhagen as during the January assault in Paris that claimed 17 lives.
"It was the same targets that were chosen by the terrorists", said Hollande, speaking on a visit to the Danish embassy in Paris.
"We see there is a link that doesn't show there is a network but does show the terrorists are determined to hit what we are, what we represent, the values of freedom, of law, of protection that every citizen — whatever his or her religion — should have," the president added.
Like the Islamist Kouachi brothers who killed 12 in and around the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on January 7, the Copenhagen gunman unleashed a volley of bullets at a cultural centre where a debate on freedom of speech was taking place.
Two days later in Paris, another Islamist gunman, Amedy Coulibaly, killed four Jews in a hostage drama at a kosher supermarket. In Copenhagen, the gunman shot a 37-year-old Jewish man dead outside the city's main synagogue early on Sunday.
Both rampages ended in a firefight with police. French elite forces stormed the Jewish supermarket and a printing firm where the Kouachi brothers were holed up, resulting in the deaths of all three gunmen.
In Denmark, the suspected attacker was killed in a gun battle with police after a massive manhunt closed down the capital.
'High-value targets'
"The modus operandi seems similar, the targets too. It seems to be the same type of individual jihad," said one source close to the elite French forces, who declined to be named.
Danish security forces have already said the man "may have been inspired" by the three days of terror in Paris last month.
According to the security source, authorities are wary of "copy-cat" acts.
"That is the intention of those waging jihad: with their propaganda videos and their Internet recruitment, they want people to identify with actions such as the Paris attacks. They want them to repeat them."
Groups such as Al-Qaeda and Islamic State (Isis) have called on followers to take whatever crude action they can to inflict carnage on the streets of the West.
Terrorism Jean-Charles Brisard said there were indeed "similarities" between the two attacks "but they follow the same basic trends we have been observing for several years."
The gunmen aimed at "high-value targets" with "weapons that are increasingly less sophisticated" instead of using explosives that are "more and more tracked by security services", said Brisard.
This type of attack "requires a lot less preparation than attacks that were carried out in the past," which makes it harder for authorities to intervene in the preparatory phase.
Nevertheless, the security expert warned against "short-cuts" in linking the two attacks, as "we don't know much about the Copenhagen shooter".
Nevertheless, Jens Madsen from Denmark's Security and Intelligence Service (PET) told reporters Sunday that the man may "generally have been inspired by militant Islamist propaganda issued by [Isis] and other terror organisations."


Copenhagen terrorist had Quran during attacks

Nearly one year after gunman Omar El-Hussein killed two people Copenhagen, new details have emerged about the terror attack.

Copenhagen terrorist had Quran during attacks
The fact that Omar El-Hussein was in possession of a Quran when shot by police was kept secret for nearly a year. Photos: Københavns Politi; Kristian Brasen/Scanpix
Radio24syv revealed that Omar El-Hussein, a Danish citizen of Palestinian origin, was carrying a copy of the Quran when he was shot and killed by police in the wee hours of February 15, 2015, information that had been kept secret by Danish authorities.
According to the radio station, at the time of his death El-Hussein had a Quran on him with a bookmark at Surah 21, ‘The Prophets’, which contains verses about disbelievers of Islam. 
A theologian and expert on the Quran at the University of Copenhagen said that although one cannot definitively prove that the 22-year-old El-Hussein was inspired by the scripture, the location of the bookmark could be significant. 
“One can imagine that El-Hussein considered his actions to be a continuation of the the Quran's verses on punishing the wicked,” Thomas Jøhnk Hoffmann told Radio24syv.
An official report on the February 14-15 terror attack – in which El-Hussein first fired at least 30 shots at a free speech event, killing one, and then killed a volunteer security guard outside of Copenhagen’s Great Synagogue –  made no mention of the gunman’s Quran. 
The Danish National Police declined to comment to Radio24syv on why the information wasn’t included, saying that “the involved authorities gave a description that was as precise as possible” in their report. 
Former Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET)head Hans Jørgen Bonnichsen said that withholding the information made little sense from a practical standpoint. 
“I have a hard time seeing that it would have been out of consideration for the investigation. But it could be that one did not want to contribute to equating Islam with terror and that one wanted to guard against revenge attacks in the days after [the twin shootings],” he told Radio24syv
El-Hussein was born in Copenhagen to Palestinian parents who fled to Denmark via a refugee camp in Jordan. Just two weeks before he spread terror through the Danish capital, the 22-year-old was released from prison for a stabbing offence. 
It was behind bars that El-Hussein is thought to have become radicalized. He was on multiple occasions flagged up by prison authorities for expressing “extreme” views on Islam and at one point shared a cell with an inmate who openly supported the Islamic State, but PET said that it had “no reason to believe that the now deceased 22-year-old offender was planning attacks” based on the information from the Danish Prison and Probation Service. 
In addition to the revelation about El-Hussein’s Quran, TV-2 also reported that seven of the 21 shots fired by police and security guards from within the targeted Krudttønden cultural cafe got stuck in the cafe’s window as the gunman opened fire on a free speech event from the outside. 
It is unknown if the shots were unable to pierce through the windows because of inadequate ammunition or because of the angles from which the shots were fired, but a Danish People’s Party spokesman said that the revelation is proof that Danish police were ill-prepared for a terror attack. 
“The police should have been ready to withstand a terror attack, and they clearly were not prepared. Denmark has been high on the list of countries that terrorists want to attack, so it is thought-provoking that officers didn’t have ammunition that could shoot through glass. It seems completely useless,” Peter Kofod Poulsen told Politiken.