For three days this week, special forces and members of the French Armed Forces patrolled the Paris neighborhood where a priest was brutally stabbed to death Saturday in a killing that a police officer says had Islamic overtones.
The stabbings shook this city to its core, the words of one of the Islamic State’s most important jihadi figures playing a role in a country that has experienced more than its share of such attacks in recent years.
It is the latest slaying to energize a nation already bombarded by propaganda and agitation from the jihadists themselves and their jihadi supporters. The announcement of an upcoming major attack in France sent French television news channels into a hysterics and aroused a strong national reaction as the attacks in France have done in the past.
But from the moment the news of a third priest’s murder was announced, government officials and French media focused on the frequency of the attacks and the “enemy within” aspect of the attacks, without keeping a close eye on other possible conspiracies.
“They were in unity and committed to impose some kind of defense on the homeland, and that is what it was,” the country’s interior minister, Gerard Collomb, said Sunday.
The attacks were made even more spectacular by the ability of an assailant to stab and later decapitate a priest in the middle of a baptism service at a church. The radical Islamic State’s chief propagandist, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, said the executioner was “of the Islamic State and executed it.”
In the mid-1950s, the French Defense Ministry famously published an incisive report on security in general, organized into a series of books called “The Enemy Within.”
The title refers to the theory that France is overburdened with security measures — in hospitals, airports, schools, buses and trains — that cannot be ensured without providing security forces to watch over people in various capacities. There is a parallel, commonly used, term in France: “the enemy without.”