Friday, 12 October 2012

France intensifies campaign against domestic terrorism

In the wake of police raids in several cities in France, French prosecutors said that an Islamist terror cell was planning the biggest bomb attack on France since the mid-1990s.

French police arrested twelve people in raids over the weekend. In one of the raids, a gun-wielding suspect was shot and killed. The police has since released five of those arrested, but says the evidence against the other seven is compelling. The police found bomb-making materials in several of the locations raided.

Islamic terrorism in most European countries and in the United States is either directed specifically at the government or its agencies (such as the Fort Hood attacks, shooting at the entrance to the CIA compound) or is more generally directed against civilians (such as the attack against trains in Madrid and London, the Times Square attempt, etc.).

In France, however, Islamic terrorism is more specifically anti-Semitic in nature, and most, if not all, of the recent targets of Islamic terrorism in France are ordinary Jews

The past weekend’s raids followed an attack on a Jewish shop last month.

Prosecutors said that there is evidence that two of the suspects in custody are also involvement in a network for Islamists waging jihad abroad.

Le Figaro reports that one of the prosecutors, Francois Molins, said on Thursday that the alleged terrorist cell, was “probably the most dangerous” France had seen since the Algerian-based GIA (Armed Islamic Group), which carried out a series of attacks across France in 1995-96 (“groupe terroriste le plus dangereux jamais démantelé depuis 1996”).

Molins said the explosive ingredients found garage in the Paris suburb of Torcy on Tuesday night could have made “exactly the same kind of device as was used in 1995 by the GIA.” Figaro reports that  the police had found a large quantity of potassium nitrate, sulphur, five meters of cable, alarm clocks, headlamp bulbs, and a pressure cooker that could serve as a bomb casing.

In 1992 the military government of Algeria canceled the second round of the elections after Islamists made considerable gains in the first round. In response to the election cancelation, the GIA, an Algerian Islamic fundamentalist organization which set as its goal the turning of Algeria into an Islamic state, launched a 6-year brutal terror campaign, to which the military responded with its own brutal measures. The GIA became known for wiping out entire villages in its area of operation, killing men, women, and children. One terror tactics the GIA used often was for its fighters to attack school buses which carried children to schools the GIA did not think were religious enough. The GIA fighters would not shoot at the bus, however. Rather, after its fighters stopped the bus, GIA militants would climb the bus and use knives to slash the throats of the kids still sitting inside.

From 1992 to 1998, the most intense phase of the Islamic terrorism in Algeria, about 250,000 civilians were killed.

The GIA believed that France was behind the military government in Algeria, and in 1993 began a terror campaign in France. In the organization’s deadliest attack on France in 1995, the GIA killed eight people and injured 100 with a bomb on the Paris Metro.

Molins said that one of the detainees had acted as a contact for would-be jihadists while another had travelled to Egypt and Tunisia.

Figaro notes that the French police raids followed an attack on a kosher grocery in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles on 19 September, in which one person was injured. The man the police says was behind the attack, 33-year-old Jeremie Louis-Sidney, was shot dead at his home in Strasbourg on Saturday in an exchange of fire with the police.

Louis-Sidney served time for drug-trafficking, and apparently was influenced in prison to convert to Islam. His fingerprints were found on the remains of a grenade thrown into the kosher grocery store.

French law enforcement authorities have increased the resources dedicated to tracking and combating terrorism after French Islamist Mohamed Merah murdered three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi, and three paratroopers in and around Toulouse before being shot dead in a police siege of his flat.

French president Francois Hollande has last week said that there will be “total mobilization of the state [la mobilisation totale de l’État] to fight all terrorist threats.”

Source: Homeland Security News wire

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