France faces jihad

France has now joined the US and UK as pivotal points in the scheme of international jihad. Terrorist cells are active in the French Republic as recruitment increases.

France’s war with the jihadis is more intense than most Americans or even most Europeans would imagine. 

Archive Photo: French carbeque

With French troops engaging the Taliban in Afghanistan often coming under attack, jihadist cells have started targeting France as well as French presence in the Sahel, the north African Sahara. Now active jihadist cells are indeed deploying inside France just as they are inside many other Western European countries. 

Related link: The Islamification of France

Danish Police: 20 Arrested at Asylum Camp Protest (you’ll be looking for words like “Islam” or “Muslims” in this NYT article, but you won’t find even the tiniest hint/ed)

In a recent interview with Parisian daily Le Figaro, French Interior Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie, provided significant revelations about France’s vulnerabilities and response. Added to information provided by other French defense and counterterrorism officials and legislators, the picture undeniably affirms that France now joins Britain and other western European countries as pivotal points in the scheme of international jihad. 

According to Alliot-Marie, members of a terrorist group in Central Asia have recently been arrested in Mulhouse, in the east of France, where they were apparently undergoing military training. The minister said: “I can tell you that 89 Islamic activists were arrested in France in 2007.” 

Asked about the “recruitment factories,” she replied, “French prisons are a place of privileged recruitment for Islamist radicals. It’s one of my concerns. I propose that my European counterparts develop a handbook on Islamism in prison to inform security professionals on how to detect and prevent this type of recruitment.” France’s prison system is not that different from the United Kingdom or the United States. These prisons acts as Jihadi incubators 

The minister added social problems as yet another contributing factor. “Certain problem areas in our suburbs,” she explained. “also remain choice targets for Salafist activities. The youth are then sent to obtain theological education in the Muslim world and attend Koranic schools, similar to the madrassas of Pakistan, Egypt and Yemen.” 

Alliot-Marie named several countries, including Pakistan and Yemen, which have a large group of citizens deemed “at risk.” That requires an extraordinary airline security protocol for flights to and from those countries. “We communicate with the airlines,” she explained, “the names and dates of departure and arrivals of passengers reported [to us] as ‘dangerous.’” But the minister says she is working “to extend this watch to other countries and to flights with a stopover, which would prevent for example going through Switzerland when coming to France from Pakistan—this to cover their tracks. Finally, we would like to know if passengers travel alone or accompanied. This is important to prevent hijacking of planes.” 

The minister’s statement may be surprising to some, as many critics in the United States blast Washington for unilaterally establishing lists of passengers from countries at risk while claiming that Europeans do not. Now we hear the French minister of interior confirming that these lists exist in Europe as well and that they are part of the French national security apparatus. This demonstrates that the prevention policy in a country still very sensitive to civil liberties such as France, can work as a component of counter terrorism measures. 

Two other areas of confrontation with al-Qaida are the Sahel region of Africa and on the Internet. 

The French minister said that “Today, Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia threatens French interests throughout the Maghreb and its influence extends to the Sahel.” She added: “A more important danger is that the terrorists have changed tactics. Several leaders of the Gulf countries have confided to me that attacks organized well in advance are yielding to opportunistic attacks, unplanned and committed by individuals indoctrinated through the internet…This new threat is therefore much more difficult to identify and follow up on.” 

In my 2005 book Future Jihad, I called these terrorist manifestations “Mutant Jihad.” Others call it “homegrown terrorism.” Either way, the phenomenon feature indoctrination as a root cause. 

The French battle with Salafist jihadism is widening, though not well publicized overseas. In the next months and years, it is expected that escalation would cover the areas mentioned by the French minister: Afghanistan, Sahel and North Africa as well as France itself. 

Walid Phares writes for The Cutting Edge News and is the director Foundation for the Defense of Democracies “Future Terrorism Project.” He is the author of the acclaimed Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad. 

2 thoughts on “France faces jihad”

  1. Excellent article by Walid Phares. He has been a leading expert on Trans Atlantic confrontation with Jihadi threats.

  2. Everyone thought Sarkozy would make a difference. He has turned out to be the French version of Kevin Rudd,IMHO.
    Maybe his wife is too much of a distraction also?

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