Paris Terror Attacks: France attacks indicate higher level of sophistication
There is increasing evidence of a thread connecting the Isil stronghold of Raqqa with the plotters who carried out the Paris attacks.
An analysis by the UK-based think tank the Henry Jackson Society of 32 terrorist plots in 10 European countries until August this year found that in most cases there was no known direct link between European-based militants and the Syrian leadership - even if many were inspired by Isil propaganda.
The previous Isil approach saw leaders provide broad details of a mission to small groups of local militants and then allow them to organise the detail.
Friday's atrocity seems very different. The alleged mastermind - Abdelhamid Abaaoud, (27) a Belgian-Moroccan - fled to Syria in January after commandos shot dead two members of an Isil sleeper cell planning a terrorist spectacular in Belgium.
He is the suspected link man between militants involved in a number of plots before the Paris attacks and Isil leaders in Syria. His role suggests an evolving approach to attack planning by Isil.
The attacks in Paris suggest the use of directed sleeper cells with operatives who are battle-hardened or trained in Syria, with numerous links to the multi-ethnic Brussels district of Molenbeek, a crucible of jihadist activity.
Four of the Paris attackers are known to have been French, with the fifth suspected to be a Syrian who was stopped and fingerprinted while passing through Greece in October.
Greece was also the country where a mobile phone was traced that was used by Abaaoud to contact members of the Belgian cell before the raid in January, according to officials quoted by CNN. During the planning for that attack, Abaaoud and the plotters used an elaborate coded language to make calls between them.
Similarly, a senior Belgian official has suggested that the Paris plotters could have used encrypted messages via Playstation 4 consoles to communicate with each other.
The source of the assault guns used in the Paris attacks was unclear last night but security officials have spoken of a growing threat from guns smuggled from Eastern Europe, including by Bulgarian criminals.
It is also clear that planning for the attack took advantage of failures to prevent the movement of the bombers across Europe.
A senior Turkish official flagged one of the suicide bombers, Omar Ismail Mostefai, to French counterparts in 2014 but received no response.
In September last year, a spokesman for Isil encouraged supporters to carry out attacks in the West, however crude.
But the Paris attacks suggest a level of sophisticated planning that brought together deadly weaponry and people across open borders for the attack, along with co-ordinated tactics.