France still fears more ter­ror at­tacks

Lesotho Times - - International -

PARIS — The French in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity be­lieves that last week’s at­tacks in Paris, which left 17 peo­ple dead, could be a pre­lude to even more lethal at­tacks, a for­mer coun­tert­er­ror­ism of­fi­cial has warned.

Yves Trotignon, a for­mer top coun­tert­er­ror­ism of­fi­cial in DGSE, France’s equiv­a­lent to the CIA, said, “There is a strong feel­ing that this is not over.”

Mr Trotignon, now a pri­vate ter­ror­ism con­sul­tant, said he was in close con­tact with French in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials in­ves­ti­gat­ing last week’s at­tacks.

He said most be­lieve that although the in­sti­ga­tors of last week’s at­tacks might all now be dead, “there is a strong feel­ing that maybe some­thing more danger­ous is ahead.”

French po­lice said Mon­day that up to six mem­bers of the ter­ror­ist cell be­lieved to be re­spon­si­ble for last Wed­nes­day’s at­tacks may still be at large, the As­so­ci­ated Press re­ports.

One was re­port­edly spot­ted driv­ing a car reg­is­tered to the widow of one of the at­tack­ers.

On Sun­day more than a mil­lion peo­ple marched the streets of Paris in a show of de­fi­ance against ter­ror­ism af­ter the French seemed to breathe a col­lec­tive sigh of re­lief on Fri­day when po­lice killed all three armed ji­hadists, be­liev­ing that the tur­moil was fi­nally over.

The sense that a larger-scale threat is in the works, per­haps else­where in Europe, echoes a warn­ing from Bri­tish in­tel­li­gence.

Last Thurs­day — one day af­ter Saïd and Chérif Kouachi stormed the Char­lie Hebdo news­pa­per of­fice and killed 12 peo­ple — the head of Bri­tain’s MI5 se­cu­rity agency, An­drew Parker, told de­fence and in­tel­li­gence ex­perts in Lon­don that Bri­tish in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers be­lieved that ter­ror­ist groups were craft­ing “com­plex and am­bi­tious plots” against West­ern tar­gets, and said “a group of core al-qaeda ter­ror­ists in Syria is plan­ning mass-casualty at­tacks against the West.”

On Fri­day, po­lice killed the Kouachi broth­ers in a print­ing work­shop out­side Paris while at the same time oth­ers killed Am­edy Coulibaly, who took con­trol of a kosher su­per­mar­ket at the Porte de Vin­cennes and killed four hostages, one day af­ter he shot dead a po­lice- woman.

De­spite the huge shock from last week’s at­tacks, in the eyes of in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials, it was not a par­tic­u­larly ma­jor as­sault.

In to­tal, the three ji­hadists killed 17 peo­ple, in­clud­ing eight jour­nal­ists and three po­lice of­fi­cers, be­fore they were shot dead.

While those num­bers are a tragic loss, they are still far smaller than, for ex­am­ple, an attack on a crowded bus or train might be.

On 7 July 2005, four sui­cide bombers killed 52 peo­ple in Lon­don while the Madrid train bomb­ing in 2004 left 191 dead.

Speak­ing of last week’s at­tacks, Mr Trotignon said that leav­ing aside the enor­mous tur­moil, it could be far worse.

“Of course it was a drama with a lot of dead peo­ple on the ground,” he said, then apol­o­gized for per­haps sound­ing cal­lous. Still, he said, “th­ese are not the worst pos­si­ble ter­ror­ists in Europe.”

Although all three men are dead, French In­te­rior Min­is­ter Bernard Cazeneuve opted to main­tain the top-level se­cu­rity threat level in place across the coun­try, say­ing that France was “un­der threat.” Yet avert­ing the next ter­ror attack could be a daunt­ing task, Mr Trotignon said.

“It is im­pos­si­ble in all of Europe, not only in France but also Ger­many and ev­ery­where, to mon­i­tor ev­ery guy com­ing from Syria or Iraq,” he said. “We know in the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity that it is im­pos­si­ble.”

On Mon­day the gov­ern­ment an­nounced it was de­ploy­ing 10 000 troops to pro­tect hun­dreds of Jewish schools and syn­a­gogues across the coun­try — the first time France has ever used mil­i­tary per­son­nel to pro­tect civil­ians, ac­cord­ing to Army Colonel Benoît Brulen, speak­ing to a re­porter in Paris’s 11th Dis­trict, close to the site of the Char­lie Hebdo massacre. “It is an in­di­ca­tion of the level of men­ace we face,” he said.

Mean­while, French Jews, al­ready feel­ing un­der siege by an­tiSemitism, say the trauma of the ter­ror­ist at­tacks last week has left them scared, an­gry, un­sure of their fu­ture in France and in­creas­ingly will­ing to con­sider con­flict-torn Is­rael as a safer refuge.

“It is a war here,” said Jacqueline Co­hen, owner of an art store on Rue des Rosiers in a Jewish neigh­bour­hood lined with falafel and Ju­daica shops where many busi­nesses were closed Mon­day morn­ing.

“Af­ter what hap­pened, we feel safer in the cen­tre of Tel Aviv than we do here in the heart of Paris.”

“In Is­rael, there is an Iron Dome to pro­tect us,” she added, re­fer­ring to Is­rael’s an­timis­sile de­fence sys­tem.

“Here we feel vul­ner­a­ble and ex­posed. We are afraid to send our chil­dren to school.”

— Time

French troops pa­trol around the Eif­fel Tower on Mon­day in Paris, France. France de­ployed 10 000 sol­diers to boost se­cu­rity fol­low­ing last week’s deadly at­tacks.

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