Paris attacks and 'Jihadi John' - UK newspaper headlines

By Andy McFarlane
BBC News


The gravity of the situation in Paris, where more than 120 people were killed in a series of gun and bomb attacks, was becoming apparent as UK newspapers faced their deadlines.

Most changed the front pages of later editions to report the fatalities, with full details yet to emerge. However, papers updated their websites through the night as the chilling accounts of survivors came to light.

The Guardian quotes several, including one man who escaped the Bataclan rock venue where more than 80 people were reported killed. He tells the paper: "It looked like a battlefield, there was blood everywhere, there were bodies everywhere. I was on the ground with a man on top of me and another one beside me up against a wall... I don't know how long we stayed like that, it seemed like an eternity.

"I saw my final hour unfurl before me, I thought this was the end. I thought I'm finished, I'm finished. I was terrified."

image copyrightEPA

Mail Online reports the comments of another man injured at the same venue, who was updating his social media status as events unfolded. "I'm still at the Bataclan. 1st floor. Hurt Bad! There are survivors inside. They are cutting down all the world. One by one," wrote Benjamin Cazenoves. Later, he was able to add: "Alive. Just cuts... Carnage... Dead bodies everywhere."

Simon Kuper, of the FT, was in the Stade de France when he heard explosions nearby. Most people, he says, dismissed them as firecrackers. But he writes on the FT's website: "I had stopped watching [the football]. I was on my laptop, following the rolling, horrible news from Paris, and asking myself: should I be raising my children here?

"You live in Paris to go out, to meet friends in cafes like the Bataclan, to have conversations with intelligent people from everywhere, to go to football matches or to the Louvre, near where there was a shooting tonight too. Paris is all about its public spaces... No city has better ones. And when those public spaces become dangerous... the city crumbles."

image copyrightAP
image captionPolice lined the outside of the stadium following explosions in the area

Specialist reporters offered speedy analysis. Times Europe editor Charles Bremner writes that there was "little surprise" in France that attacks came, and "apparently in the name of the radical Islamist cause". He adds: "President Hollande's government has been warning constantly that it was only a matter of time before home-grown French jihadists committed another atrocity."

In a video posted on the Telegraph's website before the atrocities - in reaction to the earlier beheading of a man in a separate suspected Islamic attack - Henry Samuel explains why France has been "singled out" by extremists. He says the country has acted as a "policeman" against Islamism in Africa, while it has a larger number of nationals fighting with Islamic State (IS or Isis) extremists in Iraq and Syria than other nations.

Strategic or symbolic?

While there was no official word on who was behind the Paris attacks, several papers point out the attacks came a day after a US drone strike is believed to have killed the British IS militant Mohammed Emwazi - known as Jihadi John for his appearances in videos showing hostage-beheadings. The Times points out: "Multiple reports said that the attackers shouted 'this is for Syria'."

For Sam Jones, writing in the FT Weekend, it was "a matter of time" before the modern communication that created the persona of Jihadi John proved to be his undoing. "His apparent death underscores at least one truth in the west's long-running war on Islamist terrorism: the most-wanted are only ever a phone call or an internet connection away from a hellfire missile."

Prof Fawaz Gerges, from the London School of Economics, writes in the Daily Mirror that Emwazi's death is "a major blow to Isis". He says: "He was a psychopath who, hostages say, beat, waterboarded and killed civilians. As such he was a vital part of the Isis narrative."

However, Catherine Philp writes in the Times that while it may have been an "important symbolic moment", the execution has little strategic value because Emwazi "was never an important figure in the group".

The Independent's Patrick Cockburn agrees that his death "will not significantly weaken the group, which remains in command of a powerful army and state machine that rules an area the size of Great Britain". He adds: "Unfortunately, it is a movement never likely to be short of executioners and in whose ideology martyrdom for the faith is a central feature."

IS has more pressing concerns than this Western "PR coup", says the Guardian's Ian Black. "The capture of the Iraqi town of Sinjar may well turn out to be far more significant than the demise of one sinister executioner with a high media profile. Holding Sinjar could help open the way to Mosul, whose fall precipitated the Isis declaration of a caliphate in Raqqa in north-eastern Syria."

Legal matters?

The Sun criticises Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for saying he would have preferred Emwazi to face trial. "Corbyn should know that arresting him would have entailed an invasion of Syria - which he opposes, along with air strikes, and which would cost British lives - followed by the vast public expense of a trial and lifelong jail term."

However Max Hastings, writing in the Daily Mail, shares Mr Corbyn's qualms about such strikes being carried out at the "whim" of intelligence services.

He writes: "In our enthusiasm for seeing our own foes abroad liquidated, what shall we say if the Russians start killing their identified enemies in Ukraine, or the Chinese beyond their own borders? I suggest we shall not like it. We shall be even less happy when terrorists start using [unmanned aerial vehicles] against us, as they assuredly will."

image captionLord Dannatt and Max Hastings take opposing views in their newspaper columns

And the Guardian argues: "This use of lethal force is disturbing. There may be legal justification. But the government must explain exactly what it is, how decisions are taken, and where accountability lies. Keeping it legal matters."

However Lord Dannatt, former head of the British army, writes in the Telegraph that those who feel "unease" that drone strikes are "not quite fair" ought to view the killings in context. "In complex modern warfare, where international boundaries are not recognised by our opponents, who do not wear identifiable uniforms, it is entirely legitimate that a lethal strike is carried out against a man who has killed and would very likely have killed again."

Douglas Murray from the Henry Jackson Society think tank, which presses for the spread of liberal democracy and the rule of law, writes in the Express that those who complain that Emwazi did not face trial should remember that his end "bloody as it was, would have been painless compared to what he put his victims through".

Eye-catching headlines

  • "Wine sleuth keeps counterfeits corked" - the Times meets Michael Egan, who uses digital microscopes to examine the bottles and labels of collectible wines to identify fakes, for a fee of £140 an hour
  • "Park and hide" - a man is appealing for help to find his car, which he lost in the back streets of Norwich after driving 45 miles to attend a Halloween party, the Sun reports
  • "I bought classic car and found dad owned it 40 years ago" - a garage owner paid £5,000 for a Saab 96 to later discover his father had sold it the year he was born, says the Daily Express
  • "Rear-ly! British university invites world's finest minds to discuss... the Kardashians" - academics from the US, Germany and across the UK will attend the University of West London's "Kimposium" to discuss why the reality TV family has become so famous, says the Mail

'Rock star grandstanding'

David Cameron's day was bookended by proclaiming "a strike at the heart" of IS and sending condolences to those affected by the French attacks. In between, there was the less grave task of attending a colourful rally at Wembley to mark the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Robert Hardman captures the atmosphere for the Mail. "When was the last time a politician filled one of our national stadiums with 60,000 gyrating supporters, not to mention a marching band of boogying bagpipers, several hundred Bollywood dancers and the London Philharmonic Orchestra?"

His British counterpart didn't quite match Mr Modi's star appeal, despite trying some "rock star grandstanding", according to the writer. "'Namaste, Wembley!' he shouted and then did it all over again. 'Come on, we want them to hear that in Mumbai'... Mick Jagger he was not."

image copyrightPA

Rather than the usual "En-ger-land", Wembley reverberated to "Bharat mata ki Jai!", or "Hail Mother India", says Valentine Low, of the Times. "For a few hours yesterday the hallowed turf was transformed into Indian soil... The hawkers who normally sell football tat were selling Indian flags and scarves. It was £3 for a flag but one was quickly beaten down to £5 for two. 'We are in India, so we bargain,' Nadir Doctor, 65, an accountant from Mill Hill, northwest London, said."

As the Telegraph's Tom Rowley notes: "Breathless broadcasters back in India declared 'Modi rules Britannia' and approvingly noted the pedigree of the venue: 'Man U, Madonna, MJ [Michael Jackson], Modi.'"

For the Independent's Cahal Milmo, "it was a takeover of England's national stadium, to the sounds of a pulsating Bhangra beat and a kaleidoscope of saris, that showed the true dynamism of UK-Indian relations - and the populist talents of its most powerful politician".

The Guardian is less enthusiastic, however. "The mundane truth is that this trip is basically about seeking advantage in the day-to-day politics of both countries." Mr Cameron, it says, wants to take the votes of British-Indian communities from Labour. Mr Modi is keen for "successes on the foreign stage [to] help obscure setbacks and controversies in India", such as his lukewarm response to the murder of a Muslim accused of eating beef, the paper adds.

Despite the promise of investment deals, the FT suggests the UK is "mistaken if it believes that trading relationships can be transformed by grand acts of diplomacy". It argues: "The reality is that, with the exception of export industries directly controlled or regulated by governments, it is the interaction of businesses in the marketplace, not exhortations by ministers, that creates strong and durable flows of commerce."

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