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Terrorism and tragedy mark the streets of Paris

More than 120 people were killed and around 200 injured yesterday in a series of violent attacks around the French capital Paris. Concertgoers at the Bataclan nightclub were gunned down with automatic weapons. Others were taken hostage and then died when the gunmen detonated suicide belts as anti-terrorist squads broke down the doors. Elsewhere, two suicide bombers struck outside the Stade de France during a Germany-France game attended by both countries’ foreign ministers. Other shootings targeted cafés and passers-by. Eyewitnesses report seeing piles of bodies. The death toll is likely to rise further in the next few days as at least 99 of the injured are in critical condition.

Although it was not initially clear who was behind the incident, ISIS released a statement earlier today claiming that eight ‘brothers’ had carried out the shootings and detonated their explosives when they ran out of ammunition. The declaration came with a warning that this was only ‘the beginning of the storm’ – a threat, presumably, to launch more attacks in the near future. Speculation about the identity of the bombers continues, although one at least may have been known to the French police, and Syrian and Egyptian passports were reportedly found on two of the bodies.

ISIS has previously claimed responsibility for the January 2015 Charlie Hebdo attack on French soil, but this operation was of far greater scope.

Groups and state governments from across the world and across the political spectrum, including the EU, many Arab countries and Hamas. The US and Germany have offered specific aid to France in counteracting terrorism. The French government, meanwhile, has announced a state of emergency.

This attack is one of the most lethal incidents of armed violence in France since the Second World War – the casualties are only outnumbered by those of the 1961 Paris Massacre when as many as 300 protesters were killed by the French police. It is the worst terror attack ever perpetrated by ISIS within Europe, and the worst perpetrated by any group since the 2004 Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people.

Although they may be unprecedented in France, the Paris attacks are part of a rising tide of similar incidents across the globe. Since the Explosive Weapons Monitoring Program was begun in 2010, AOAV has recorded a steady rise in the number of suicide and other IED attacks. And according to data from the first half of this year, 2015 is likely to see the highest number of suicide bombings ever recorded.

AOAV condemns the attacks in Paris. Deliberate targeting of civilians is unambiguously illegal under international law. We have written before about the importance of controlling precursor substances that can be made into explosives which can then be used in this sort of attack. AOAV calls upon states to do everything in their power to restrict and control the availability of IED materials to help prevent further attacks of this nature. The deliberate targeting of civilians must stop.