Terrorist attacks in France are sadly nothing new. For decades now, the country has dealt with various terror threats from different sources. Thus, when jihadists carried out a series of murderous attacks in Paris on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015, the French Republic had the right unit for the job.
Following the ruthless murder of 11 people at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and the subsequent execution of a wounded police officer who confronted them at the corner of Boulevard Richard-Lenoir and Rue Moufle in the city's 11th Arrondissement, an intense manhunt began to pursue the terrorist brothers. The following day, another jihadist joined the violence the following day, murdering a municipal police officer in a southern suburb of Paris. The entire nation waited nervously through the night of Thursday, January 8th while the full strength of France's military and police forces combed the greater Parisian metropolitan area in search of the terrorists who committed these crimes.
Seen accompanying French Soldiers and police officers, the bullpup FAMAS has been in service for decades.
The forces assembled for this, the most extensive domestic security operation in decades, comprised local and federal law enforcement units including the Police Nationale Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité (or C.R.S. – Riot Control Brigade), Groupes d'Intervention de la Police Nationale (or French National Police Intervention Groups – GIPN) and even the interior ministry's Groupe d'Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale (National Gendarmerie Intervention Group – GIGN) special operations unit.
Formed in 1973 in response to the terrorist attack on the Munich Olympics, GIGN is the French Republic's front-line counter-terrorism and hostage-rescue force. Prior to this past week, the unit's most storied success was its near flawless rescue of all but three passengers aboard a hijacked Air France jet in Marseilles and the simultaneous neutralization of terrorists who intended to crash the plane into the Eiffel Tower. With 400 operators nationwide, it maintains the exact kind of alert readiness needed to deal with active-shooter situations like the ones that developed in Paris on January 7th, 8th and 9th. And the GIGN wields some impressive firepower. From the start of the crisis on Wednesday morning, GIGN operators could be seen in the press footage armed with some of the best firearms in the world – from Germany, Italy, the United States and even some of the homegrown variety. Unsurprisingly, just about every still photograph or video clip showed France's ubiquitous 5.56 NATO bullpup rifle – the FAMAS F1 (Fusil d'Assaut de la Manufacture d'Armes de Saint-Étienne or Assault Rifle from the Saint-Étienne Weapon Factory).
The Heckler & Koch G36 in is one of the many options available to GIGN commandos.
But in some of the clips being played by the major media outlets throughout the crisis, another 5.56 NATO carbine could be seen in the hands of French police: the Mousqueton A.M.D. (Armement Moyen de Défense or "intermediate defense weapon"). In inventory for over three decades now, the Mousqueton A.M.D. is nothing more than a standard Ruger Mini-14 carbine with French markings. In addition to those weapons, members of the GIGN could be seen carrying the Beretta Model 12S 9 mm submachine gun, as well as the 12-gauge Benelli M90 Tactical shotgun (a derivative of that company's M4 shotgun).
Two German guns could be seen in use during the tactical response to the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks, and they were both made by Heckler & Koch: the 9 mm UMP-9 submachine gun, and the assault rifle that replaced the Mousqueton A.M.D./Mini-14 in 2008 as the GIGN's primary gun: the 5.56 NATO G36. It was while armed with these firearms that GIGN operators finally tracked down the terrorists during the morning of January 9th in the community of Dammartin-en-Goële just 7miles northeast of Charles De Gaulle International Airport. With the security forces surrounding the building, and after a nine-hour stand off, the jihadists attacked the surrounding forces, and were immediately killed by operators from the GIGN.
The other terrorist met the same fate soon thereafter in a kosher supermarket at Porte de Vincennes on the eastern side of Paris. Earlier in the day, he had entered the building and taken several hostages, all the while apparently remaining in communication with his jihadi counterparts at Dammartin-en-Goële. Almost immediately after GIGN neutralized the terrorists northeast of Paris, an entry team stormed the market in a dramatic scene that was caught on camera. Sadly, four of his hostages appear to have been murdered prior to the police action.
Although these terrorists chose to make innocent people the victims of their perverted and destructive ideology, they were ultimately rendered harmless by a group of well trained and extremely well armed professional operators–the GIGN–who, in this time of crisis, lived up to their motto: Sauver des vies au mépris de la sienna (To save lives without regard for one's own).