France is tar­get of choice for ji­hadists

Kuwait Times - - ANALYSIS - By Char­lotte Plan­tive and Eric Ran­dolph

The bloody at­tacks in Paris show that France is a tar­get of choice for ji­hadists due to its air strikes against the Is­lamic State group in Iraq and Syria, as well as its con­tro­ver­sial ban on the burqa face veil and at­ti­tude to Mus­lims, an­a­lysts say. “If you can kill an Amer­i­can or Euro­pean in­fi­del, es­pe­cially the dirty, nasty French ... then count on Al­lah, kill him any way you can,” said an IS spokesman, Abu Mo­hammed Al-Ad­nani, in 2014 as the USled coali­tion launched its anti-IS raids in Iraq.

Per­haps in­spired by th­ese words, ji­hadist at­tacks against France over the past year have been of un­prece­dented fe­roc­ity. In Jan, 17 peo­ple were killed in Paris in a string of at­tacks against satir­i­cal mag­a­zine Char­lie Hebdo, a po­lice­woman and a Jewish su­per­mar­ket. And in June, a man be­headed his boss in south­east France. Fri­day night, a se­ries of at­tacks that for the first time brought sui­cide bombers to Paris, left at least 129 peo­ple dead and 350 in­jured.

France is “a tar­get due to counter-ter­ror­ism ac­tiv­i­ties in north and cen­tral Africa as well as the per­ceived mis­treat­ment of and dis­crim­i­na­tion against the Mus­lim mi­nor­ity in France it­self,” said Matthew Hen­man, head of Jane’s Ter­ror­ism and In­sur­gency Cen­tre in Lon­don. French troops have fought Is­lamists in Mali and cur­rently back African forces bat­tling Nige­ria’s deadly Boko Haram Is­lamist group. French jets have staged 283 strikes against IS tar­gets in Iraq since Septem­ber 2014.

In Oct 2015, France ex­tended its air cam­paign to Syria where its fighter-bombers have car­ried out five strikes against IS train­ing camps and oil sites. As part of the drive to in­ten­sify the cam­paign, the French air­craft-car­rier Charles-de-Gaulle is due in the area in De­cem­ber. A wit­ness to the Fri­day’s at­tack on a crowded con­cert hall where more 82 peo­ple were killed, Pierre Janaszak, said he heard the at­tack­ers say: “‘It’s the fault of Hol­lande, it’s the fault of your pres­i­dent, he should not have in­ter­vened in Syria’”.

But Shashank Joshi of the Royal United Ser­vices In­sti­tute (RUSI) in Lon­don said “the pre­texts and causes of such at­tacks are ex­cep­tion­ally com­pli­cated, and rarely is there a sin­gle fac­tor in­volved”. “I do not be­lieve that French aban­don­ment of air strikes would pro­tect it from at­tacks, be­cause there would sim­ply be some fur­ther al­leged provo­ca­tion that would be cited by fu­ture ter­ror­ists,” he added, say­ing that the level of so­phis­ti­ca­tion of the at­tacks meant they were prob­a­bly planned be­fore France’s Syria cam­paign be­gan.

‘Frus­tra­tions’ Aside from its in­ter­na­tional ac­tions, France has come un­der sharp at­tack from rad­i­cal Is­lamists for ban­ning head­scarves in schools in 2004 and then the wear­ing of the burqa face veil in pub­lic in 2010, as part of its sec­u­lar legacy. Its long tra­di­tion of free­dom of ex­pres­sion which en­ables pub­lic crit­i­cism of re­li­gion too has ir­ri­tated re­li­gious hard­lin­ers. The at­tack in Jan­uary against Char­lie Hebdo fol­lowed the satir­i­cal weekly’s pub­li­ca­tion of car­toons of the Prophet Mo­hamed.

France’s five mil­lion Mus­lims, Europe’s big­gest Mus­lim com­mu­nity, of­ten rightly com­plain of dis­crim­i­na­tion, no­tably on the em­ploy­ment front. “France is the coun­try with the most frus­tra­tions linked to Is­lam,” said so­ci­ol­o­gist Raphael Lio­gier, adding that was why “more than any­where else young peo­ple are ready to sign up” to rad­i­cal groups. A to­tal of 571 French na­tion­als or French res­i­dents have joined IS in Iraq and Syria, of which 245 have re­turned and 141 have died, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial fig­ures.

Th­ese fight­ers are among the first called on to strike their coun­try of ori­gin, and can be seen in IS pro­pa­ganda videos call­ing for at­tacks against France - in the same way Ger­man ji­hadists urge strikes against Ger­many or Amer­i­cans against the US. France is far from hav­ing been the ji­hadists’ only tar­get this year - more than 200 Rus­sians died Oct 30 in a plane crash claimed by IS over Egypt’s Si­nai. And Ye­men, Tu­nisia, Tur­key and Le­banon too have paid a price. —AFP

Peo­ple hud­dle to­gether at a me­mo­rial set up along a po­lice cor­don close to the Bat­a­clan con­cert hall yes­ter­day, two days af­ter a se­ries of deadly at­tacks. —AFP

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