A terrorist gets smoke-checked in Paris

January 9, 2015  
Categories: Op-Eds

Grey Ghost Gear

42 seconds in there is a pretty feel-good moment, though unfortunately it doesn’t do anything for the hostages (and the policewoman) already killed.

Terrorist killed in Paris - assault - Porte de Vincennes

So, we haven’t torn this down frame by frame yet, and we’re certainly not second-guessing the guys on the ground. They’re the only ones with ground truth on this deal (though individually it’s no doubt myopic). Looks like the front guys are carrying shields and handguns, and they’ve stacked guys up on each side of the entrance (stack being a relative term, which isn’t a criticism, just an observation). Presumably there are long guns on overwatch, and you can clearly hear a K9 trying to get in on the action. What else are we missing (from this vantage point obviously)?

Did just one of the assaulters get inside via this entry point before all hell broke loose? Anyone have perspective from a different angle? Did they make simultaneous entry? Anyone know what unit was handling this scene?

We certainly don’t want to armchair quarterback this, but the LE response sure looks like a serious goat rope (which doesn’t take away from the personal valor of the guys on the scene).  In any case, hot washes and brutally candid AARs are necessary to avoid tragedy next time this happens.

For background, there was at least one terrorist here. He may have been a singleton or might have been working with at least one female accomplice, depending on the source, and there is speculation he’d previously trained with the two assholes who killed the 2 cops and 10 civilians at Charlie Hebdo – which of course begs the question, did they coordinate this in advance or did one attach prompt the other? Thankfully this did not develop into a full blown multiple-location “symphonic attack” like what happened in Mumbai in 2008.

Our most significant point of concern, of course, is could this happen in the U.S.? Is an evolving, Mumbai-style symphonic attack or a Beslan-type siege more likely? Many of our minions bet either, or both. All it requires is sufficient resolve and a little tradecraft. Many agencies have addressed the issue (the NYPD sent officers to India for firsthand lessons learned after the attack there) but as with anything where training, bureaucracy and money are factors, how many of those agencies have realistic contingency measures in place? Are “realistic contingency measures” even possible?

B5 Systems2

French Tactical Personnel Charlie Hebdo Porte de Vincennes 1 French Tactical Personnel Charlie Hebdo assault Porte de Vincennes 2 French Tactical Personnel Charlie Hebdo assault Porte de Vincennes 3

Sound off with what you think.

Additional video:

It will be interesting to see if additional attacks occur in France or anywhere else for that matter. Having been involved in more than one clusterfuck ourselves, we’re just glad no further hostages or officers were killed. Hang in there.

Mad Duo, Breach-Bang& CLEAR!

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The Mad Duo are the most renowned, scholarly, door-kickingest action figures since...well, ever. They, their wretched minions and other abject flunkies are an improbable (and awesome) tale unto themselves. Read more about them here.


  1. Seb

    I’m a Frenchman and don’t pretend to know the tactic chosen for the assault and how was the action (nobody knows except the teams that performed the assault anyway) but just wanted to clarify what I know and particularly one main point of this assault often overlooked in the various comments I could read about this video (here and elsewhere):

    – What we see on this vid is not the first/main assault team. Before this team opened the front door, another team breached from the rear a minute before. So my reasonable guess is that the shooting started at the rear of the market, then the bastard saw the front door opening and was flash-banged (maybe he managed to kick back one of the flashbangs hence why it finished in the entrance), and he just charged knowing that he was fucked up and probably that he would be captured on video if exiting by the front door.

    This to my opinion changed the initial entry tactic of the front door team, as if they saw him running and firing toward them, why would they enter inside in perfect lines? It would just have given him easier targets at point blank.

    Also what may have stopped the stacks to enter inside is that one officer in support with a G36 behind a car parked in front of the entry started a a heavy fire support when he saw the bastard in his line of fire (you don’t see him on the video). So they stopped and all opened fire.

    As usual in real ops you can be sure that nothing goes as planned and one of the main qualities of this kind of unit is the ability to adapt/react to a situation on the spot.

    – The assault was performed by a team of the RAID (equivalent of the GIGN for the Police), and another team of the BRI (Intervention Brigade of the Police Criminal Division).

    – Until the first breach in the rear of the supermarket, a negociator was talking to the hostage taker to the phone (classic).

    – Some hostages managed to contact the police with their cell phones before the assault and could give them some intel (as the hostage taker apparently left them by their own for some periods of time as reported by some hostages).

    – The girlfriend of the bastard, initially reported to be inside with him and have escaped, in fact had taken a flight from Spain to Turkey and then Syria on January 2nd (another proof of TV news’ proficiency) .

    Last, to make it clear about the units involved:

    – The Police special units (RAID/BRI) performed the intervention at Vincennes.

    – The Gendarmerie (GIGN) performed the assault at Dammartin (they were clever as they didn’t released any video footage of the direct action, so no internet’s critics about their performance -)).

    – The french equivalent of the SWAT nits is called GIPN (National Police Intervention Group). There is one GIPN in each metro area in France and can perform similar actions, but the most specialized is the RAID (to compare to the US it would be the equivalent of the FBI or DEA intervention groups).

    Gendarmerie is an army corps with Police missions in French regions, but they also do military police missions and are deployed in external theaters.

    I know, quite a mess for the French specialized units, especially knowing that on top of those Police/Gendarmerie units there are 1st RPIMA (French SAS regt) and Commandos Marines that are able to perform the same hostage rescue missions (they did against Somalian pirates a ocouple of times in the past). And ultimately, the 11th Choc which is the specops regt of teh DGSE (black ops).

    That’s it for now until they uncover the entire details of these two assaults, probably not before several years. But hope it helped to answer some of your questions.

  2. Gabe Suarez

    First thing we need to admit is none of us were there. There may have been unseen pressures at play (and there usually are). For example, info that hostages were being killed, or a high level admin type ordering an immediate assault. Its nice to think he would be told to f-off, but it doesn’t always play out that way.I think this will be dissected and studied by everyone…the bad guys included. None will do so as much as the guys that made the entry. Everything looks “combat sexy” when done in the shoothouse, but things tend to sometimes look like crap in the real world.I am waiting to see and hear more…hopefully from some French operators.

  3. Bart Noir

    I also noticed police heroically using their own bodies to shield rescued hostages as they moved to a safe location.

  4. Jeep

    I just heard yesterday on French TV the analysis from the former head of negociation of the RAID (they are the one who assaulted the building, they are the Police counterpart of the GIGN – FYI the GIGN is part of the Gendarmerie, a branch of the French military which also has police missions).

    You guys are spot on.

    The tempo was dictated by the other team of terrorist North of Paris, when they opened fire on the Police in a suicide charge. The one inside the kosher supermarket would learn that any minute, and more than likely start killing hostages.

    2 big obstacles to overcome even before entering. The metal slide door that they opened with a remote control they had retrieved, which is a pain in the a** because it’s slow, it’s noisy, and it totally kills the surprise.

    The glass doors, which prevented them to use flashbangs or any other explosive device, as they might shatter and hurt/kill hostages inside (they had no intelligence regarding the location of the civilians).

    Then, the stacks were ready, but as you might hear they received HEAVY automatic fire when the first guy came in with his shield. The rest of the column had to withdraw and return fire, they had no choice.

    The first policeman goes all the way through, because that’s what he’s supposed to do, he has ballistic protection and finds it appropriate.

    Finally, they smoke the motherf*cker as he tries to exit, because there is a good chance he has rigged himself to some kind of booby trap/IED.

    Afterwards, they enter the building and you can see they apply SOP, with policemen going in, and the hostages coming out on another line.

  5. William

    That wasn’t an entry team, that was an entry mob. However at the end of the day they got their job done. I’d like to see the AAR and debrief notes though to get a better understanding of what the actual plan was. In the video it looks like they simply intended to win via supreme firepower.

  6. RWalton

    Can’t take anything from anyone there: they stood and delivered, especially the officer at the front of the stack who made entry solo, although I’m pretty sure it wasn’t planned that way.

  7. daniel

    I see two entry teams. Crowd control element for hostages and possible secondary attackers (inner cordon) a breach team for a mechanical breach which leads me to think they went in with limited Intel on the hostages location or lack of resources. The thing that stuck out to me is the long pause the entry man took after exposing himself in the fatal funnel the moving in and out of the way. (Maybe to shield hostages, I don’t know because you should never enter alone.) That’s why I don’t think they entered and clear because the lead man exposed them in the fatal funnel giving the terrorist enough time to focus his defensive attack on the officers in the door way. From the overall perspective and the small explosion I think there was a primary breach team on the other side of the building that caused everyone to come out the way they did. Just speculating. That would make sense as to why those guys at the point of entry did not commit to entering. It’s always easy to see flaws from the outside in but overall they stuck to the objective and did well with the circumstances they faced. This is just constructive feedback on what I have seen from this video and I am in no way saying any of the actions were right or wrong on the officers part. I think they did well. I see a lot of other little to large details in this video but I have tried to keep it to what appears to be the breach and entry of the building.

  8. Alex


    The did a great job. Like said before… they had to go in at that point because th other incident has just happened. Even if they were at that moment more in a “siege” mode.

    I also think, there would have been better points of entry but in my opinion the media around the crime scene, reporting live, is a very big problem. How can you get into position for a stealth entry or prepare for a breach if you have to assume that the terrorist sees all your moves live and in colour?!

    • Shell

      Precisely what happened in Munich in 1972. Given what a clusterfuck the German response was overall I don’t know if it was a bad thing that the ad-hoc operation got blown. OTOH, maybe it wouldn’t have ended up the tragedy that the eventual rescue attempt did.

  9. Al marvelli

    That roll door sure was a bitch. Would rather go thru a wall blow a mouse hole or pull w a vehicle. Running rabbit didn’t help when the stack stalls you gotta grab the lead guy or he becomes a extra bullet trap.

    Still hats off to them and rip to fellow sheepdogs.

  10. Angel

    To give a brief background , I’m a Marine Corps combat Vet with almost 10 years of law enforcement experience in a major city . The last 3 as Part of a Full time SWAT team. I wasn’t there, I’m not sure with the kind of resistance they met with, or obstacles that were in front of them.

    What I do know is

    1- hostage rescue is the most difficult operation to pull off

    2- Most hostage rescue are Not successful

    3- Hostages do die

    4- There is no Win-Win in this. Someone is going to get hurt.

    Most importantly – in a hostage rescue :


  11. Wolf

    From the last video (wide angle from a distance) it looks like one of the officers to the right of the door is hit by crossfire from the group on the left.

    I’m glad the target got what was coming to him, and major respect for these officers for stepping right into harms way to bring him down, but looks like a lot of learning can be had from this video.

    I’d love to see a moment by moment breakdown from and actual entry specialist. You can sense from the comments that everyone is on the LEO’s side here, and not trying to armchair QB it, but some honest after action breakdown would be helpful.

  12. Skrat


    At Dammartin the 2 brothers decided to run outside and shoot everywhere – they knew they were taken and facing prison for life, suicide by cop.

    At almost the same time in Paris, Police heard the “death prayor” that terrorist do just before suicide attack, so they decided to get in, before he could kill another hostage.

  13. Lee

    No plan survives first contact with the enemy. Job well done.

  14. brian taylor

    I do not understand why they allowed themselves to get hung up in the chokepoint that was the doorway.Violence of action was really lost they might have been better served with a smaller team of shooters. Just my opinion and it’s easy to armchair quarterback it after the fact.

  15. Jody

    You would think GIGN would deal with an incident like this. However, watching the video I am doubtful that was GIGN. They appeared to be more riot squad police then any tactical unit. Strange??

  16. Aaron R

    Since we’re doing a break down and I want to offer my two cents; That group was WAY to large to effectively breach. I can see that many officers in auxiliary positions controlling the scene like keeping the bystanders at bay, or ensuring no one escapes out the back door. But that many dudes storming that door way screams target rich environment inside the fatal funnel. I will give them Balls of tungsten though.

    If it were my call, I would have had two breech teams posted on each side of the door consisting of 5 men, each one hooking right and left to their respected sides. If there was a secondary door (shipping door) I would have had two teams of 5 enter that door and keep a defensive position in the event that the main breech failed or was hampered.

    Shields for every guy is a bit overkill plus that is a fairly big burden trying to maneuver tight quarters with ballistic shields, I can see 1 guy on each team with the rest posted behind them but not everyone.

    But that’s just my inexperienced critique.

    I guess it worked for them in that situation, having a gun battle inside the doorway was probably the ballsiest thing I ever witnessed by a “SWAT” team if its fair calling them that.

    That part when the guy tried to blitz past the officers and got door checked then peppered with rounds when he was on the ground was fan-fucking-tastic. That shit made me giggle like a damn Hyena.

    I tip my hats to those french officers, Balls of steel. I’d share a drink with them. Or is it wine? Champagne? hell what ever alcoholic beverage they consume in mass quantities I’ll gladly drink with em.

  17. Daniel


    The raid was in response to the fact that the other 2 terrorists had just self engaged LEO in another city. They were unsure about the amount of communication between the groups and LEO decided it was better to preemptively strike rather then risk more lives to any corodinated strike by the terrorists.

    So in essence the terrorists actions did dictate the timing on the raid, just not the onsite terrorist.

  18. Jcorrigan

    The Brigades de Recherche et d’Intervention (Research and Intervention Brigades, BRI), often called “Anti-Gang Brigades”, are elite police specials units of the French Ministry of the Interior (Ministère de l’Intérieur).

    They are specialised in very serious cases of robbery, or hostage kidnappings for the BRI of Paris (BRI-PP). For hostage kidnapping, the BRI-PP is supported by specialised units of the Préfecture de police and is nicknamed BRI-BAC (“Brigade Anti-Commando” Counter-commando Brigade) or “BRI en formation BAC”

    This was a simultaneous assault in conjunction with the other assault of the two Kouachi brothers at the location near the airport. The size of the supermarket would dictate at lest 4 , 6 man shield teams making entry from multiple entry points if possible. This is an assault, you make entry and the stack doesn’t stop until the threat is neutralized. Their shield guys appear to have had ballistic shields, ballistic face shields, helmets, ballistic leggings. They had enough protection to suck up rounds and let the long guns in the stack eat. They got hung up in the fatal funnel of the main entry point. Seems like there was an errant bang deployed in the midst of the stack, and some crossfire issues, shit happens in real life fight through it. Regardless I’m proud and humbled by the bravery of my French brothers today.

    Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité

    • J'suis Charlie

      RAID would’ve been a better choice than BRI. At least GIGN got the two shooters outside the city.

      C’est la vie.

  19. Dermot

    The hostages at the kosher market were dead prior to the assault which was prompted by the brothers at the second location doing a Butch and Sundance. Ahmed Coulibaly had told police he´d kill more hostages if there was an assault on the second site so when it kicked off there GIGN were left with no option but to go in hard and fast.

    • George

      Keep in mind its not GIGN

  20. Reed Mattocks

    Several things stick out to me about this situation. First if there is no indication that the terrorist is actively killing hostages or making threats to start killed by hostages soon I would want snipers to get eyes on target. By doing so you can lear how many terrorist are armed, if there is an explosive device visable and where hostages are located in relation to terrorist. If you have one or two terrorist with no explosives I believe you let the snipers take first shots then have entry team flash enter and sweep. The brave officers did what they have been trained to do and mistakes were made but I feel it’s a leadership and training issue not a individual LEO issue. Same thing in Sydney. I hope FBI HRT and other American SRT teams learns from theses incidents and also hope that if a terror attack like this happens on US soil that JSOC becomes the leader of situation and let them do what they are trained to do. If it is a terror attack there is no problem with military coming in on our home soil to resolve the problem.

  21. Mike R

    I won’t even pretend to be able to comment on the specific tactics used here as I’m just a regular guy. For what it’s worth though, Live leak is reporting that the four dead hostages were killed by the shooter when he first entered the building. If that’s true, at least it removes any concern that the officers hit the hostages in the crossfire.

  22. Nathan Bishop

    I think considering that this is probably the first time alot of them has ran into this type of situation, they did what they needed to do and did it with balls of steel the size of paint cans. Training can only prepare you for so much, but a few minutes of real experience give each officer what years of training would only scratch the surface of. And god forbid this happen again anytime soon, but bet your shiny ass the next time these guys will have execution.

  23. Kevin

    Negotiations are useless. The faster they break down the door the better.

    • John

      Bullshit. A huge majority of barricaded suspect/hostage taking situations are resolved peacefully, after negotiations. These incidents never get the same publicity as the ones with a violent end, of course, but this certainly does not mean that “negotiations are useless”.

  24. Cid

    I think the flashbang hit the door. Look at the guy taking a shot behind the car in front of the entry team on the right. The guy takes a shot as the automatic door is closing.

    That entry team is big.

    FUCK automatic doors.

  25. Michael Barnes

    I am 20 year law enforcement veteran in a small community. I don’t hold the “SWAT” experience but do give instruction to patrol officers and to school faculties on active shooter incidents. I train patrol officers the tactics necessary to confront an active shooter. I have never actually been in an active shooter but have worked in the active search for armed persons including subjects that have killed just prior to my joining the hunt. I think it is important to note the extent of my experience and training or the lack of so my comments can be taken in the right context.

    I think the officers involved showed tremendous courage standing there and fighting it out. I agree with your view that only one actually made entry. I hope he wasn’t injured and if so not badly. Guts all the way thru and in my view, the one who made the best use of tactics. He kept moving and aggressively trying to close with the whack job. I believe he possibly flushed the bad guy into that suicidal charge.

    I would really like to see the final debrief notes on this because I have a lot of questions. One of the biggest is what was the story with the flashbang going off in the middle of the officers.

    If I have anything that may come across as negative it is the entry team was too big and let themselves get stalled in a doorway. Not a good place to be. I am not trained with explosives but I also don’t understand why they didn’t blow the door.

    Like I said, very courageous work. I have no doubt even with the loss of four lives, I believe they did save the others lives. I am also trying to keep in mind this was a entry I believe was forced on them and they were not ready to make. Events at the other location probably forced them to make the assault. Lessons to be learned and I hope they share with other law enforcement candidly what worked and what didn’t so we can all improve.

    I also am curious to find out if the female was in there or not. If so, how did she get out?

    Captain Michael Barnes

    Lapel Police Department


    • desi

      The wife of the terrorist was not in the store. She had fled the country to Syria days ago.

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