• France edition
 
Were French jihadists among hostage-takers?
An undated grab from a video reportedly shows former Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) emir Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who has claimed responsibility for the mass kidnapping in Algeria. Photo AFP/HO/ANI

Were French jihadists among hostage-takers?

Published: 21 Jan 2013 13:40 GMT+01:00
Updated: 21 Jan 2013 13:40 GMT+01:00

Although France’s Interior Minister Manual Valls has not confirmed any of his countrymen were among the kidnappers, sources in the country’s intelligence services have indicated to media in France that there were French jihadists involved.

The four day hostage siege, which left 81 dead including at least 48 hostages, was finally brought to an end on Sunday after an operation by Algerian armed forces.

The jihadist group run by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a former leader of the regional Al-Qaeda franchise, attacked the In Amenas gas plant as revenge for France’s decision to intervene against Islamist rebels in Mali.

There have been unconfirmed rumours in France for several days that the jihadist group contained French nationals.

And after apparently being handed information from their Algerian counterparts, sources among France’s intelligence services and anti-terrorism units confirmed those reports to French daily Le Parisien on Monday.

“The name that they have given us did not appear on any of our files or in any database,” a source in France’s anti-terrorism unit (DCRI) was quoted as saying in the paper.

“He must have been in Algeria for a long time, otherwise he would have been picked up,” a well-placed judicial source added.

‘Reports are just rumours’

Algerian television station Ennahar TV has already claimed that two of the hostage-takers killed in the raid by the Algerian military were Canadian nationals.

Publicly at least, France’s government remained cautious over the reports its own citizens may have been involved.

Asked to confirm the presence of French nationals among the kidnappers Interior Minister Manuel Valls said: “I don’t believe it is the case”, adding that the reports were just “rumours”.

Valls did however accept “without doubt” there were French nationals enlisted in various jihadist groups in the Sahel region of North Africa.

The minister said he expected to know more about the hostage-takers after speaking to the Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal this afternoon.

Terrorist threat against France

Sounding a note of caution, Valls said the terrorist threat facing France was ‘greater than ever before’.

France is currently on heightened alert against a terror attack in the light of threats by Islamist extremists to "attack at the heart of France" in revenge for its Mali operation. Security has been raised throughout the country, most notably at airports and train stations.

“Since March last year (when self-proclaimed Islamist extremist Mohamed Merah went on the rampage in Toulouse) and after a terrorist cell was dismantled in October, the threat is still very high”, the Interior Minister told Europe1.

“We have an enemy outside our borders but at the same time there is an internal foe that is made up of dozens of dangerous individuals that need to be watched closely and neutralized.”

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
French pharmacies shut up shop in protest
It'll likely be harder than usual to find an open pharmacy in France. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

French pharmacies shut up shop in protest

All but a handful of pharmacies in France will be closed on Tuesday as part of a nationwide strike against government plans to weaken the monopolies held by self-employed professionals like lawyers, doctors and notaries. READ  

Champions League
PSG will play to win against Barcelona: Blanc
PSG coach Laurent Blanc says his side will stick to their footballing principles against Barcelona. Photo: Franck Fife/AFP

PSG will play to win against Barcelona: Blanc

PSG coach Laurent Blanc said his team will play to win against Spanish giants Barcelona when they meet in the Champions League Group F clash in Paris on Tuesday. Blanc's side however will have to do without the injured Zlatan Ibrahimovic. READ  

Guest blog - French tax breaks
'Starting a company in France is not that taxing'
Setting up a company in France might not mean the tax burden that you had imagined. Photo: Shutterstock

'Starting a company in France is not that taxing'

The words "France" and "taxes" are as synonymous as "pain" and "chocolat" but when it comes to setting up a company in the country, guest blogger Katya Puyraud, from Eurostart Enterprises says things are not as bad as they seem at first. And the paperwork is a positive! READ  

French public debt rises above €2,000,000,000,000
France's public debt has now passed the two trillion mark, officially. Photo: AFP

French public debt rises above €2,000,000,000,000

The depressing figures for the French economy just keep on coming. On Tuesday it was revealed that the country's public debt had passed the symbolic two trillion mark. In real numbers that's €2,000,000,000,000. READ  

IN IMAGES - Floods
South of France hit by devastating floods
The southern French city of Montpellier has been left under water by the floods. Photo: Sylvain Thomas/AFP

South of France hit by devastating floods

Parts of southern France were once again hit by devastating floods on Monday that left the city of Montpellier under water and a state of natural disaster declared in around 60 towns and villages. Here are some videos and images. READ  

French cops struggle to catch speeding Brit
A British driver got caught going really fast on a French motorway and he's not the first. Photo: AFP

French cops struggle to catch speeding Brit

It took French cops a full 10 kilometres to catch up to a Briton as he cruised along at 219 km/h on a motorway this weekend. He's done nothing to improve the speed demon rep of British drivers in France. READ  

Southern France put on maximum storm alert
Nasty storms in southern France have prompted the country's top weather warning. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

Southern France put on maximum storm alert

French meteorologists have issued a red alert - the maximum warning - to residents in southern France due to heavy storms and the threat of flash flooding. Four people were killed in raging flood waters in the same area two weeks ago. READ  

Top 15 French words reinvented in English
Here are 15 French words Anglos have redefined. Panther, lingerie and alley: Shutterstock

Top 15 French words reinvented in English

The French are well known for lending words from the English language but Anglos have proven just as willing to adopt Gallic words and have even reinvented a few. Here are 15 'French' words in English that the French themselves may not quite understand. READ  

PSG's Ibrahimovic to miss Barcelona clash
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is out for Paris's match against Barcelona. Photo: AFP

PSG's Ibrahimovic to miss Barcelona clash

An ongoing heel problem means Paris Saint-Germain will face Barcelona without star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the club announced on Monday. READ  

France set to cut welfare benefits for families
France looks set to cut parental leave in a bid to save money. Photo: Myllissa/Flickr

France set to cut welfare benefits for families

The French state has long been considered fairly family friendly when it came to handing out welfare benefits, but the desperate need to cut its budget is threatening to make it far less amenable in future. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
VIDEO: Here's a view from the Eiffel Tower you haven't seen before
Travel
Do Paris's iconic rooftops deserve Unesco World Heritage status?
Opinion
'France cannot reform, the pilots' strike showed us this'
National
'We just don’t work hard enough in France.' Is that true?
International
France has moved to beef up security in various public places
National
Hiking naked in France does not come risk-free
Marks & Spencer
Sponsored Article
Marks and Spencer: Win €300 toward your new autumn wardrobe
Culture
10 French customs that confuse Anglos
National
IN PICTURES: A look inside France's 'most notorious' prison
International
Isis urges killing of 'spiteful, dirty' French
National
Paris installs new device to stop 'love lock' craze
National
Paris cabby dies in vicious high-heel attack
National
'Paris is a sexy city, its beauty is inspiring'
Culture
Depardieu: ‘I drink 14 bottles of booze a day’
National
Top French chefs want banned bird on menu
National
VIDEO: Making of French rugby hunk calendar
National
Ten great bars in Paris only locals know about
Society
France's top expat tribes: Which are you?
National
France to set flat-rate for Paris airport taxis
Politics
French separatists want Scots to say 'yes'
National
Anti-dog poo offensive launched in French town
National
Scammers attack Paris's top cop at tourist hotspot
National
French leader didn't pay his rent for three years
National
'WW2 bomb' kills camper on French island
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se