• France's news in English
 

Were French jihadists among hostage-takers?

Published: 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
Calais migrants' crisis
UK to send 100 more border guards to Calais
UK Border Force will send 100 more officers to Calais. Photo: AFP

UK to send 100 more border guards to Calais

The UK government is to send 100 more border guards to Calais to bolster efforts to prevent thousands of migrants crossing the Channel from France. READ  

Christian tombs desecrated in France
File photo showing Jewish graves vandalised in February. Photo: AFP

Christian tombs desecrated in France

Around 40 Christian tombs were desecrated in a cemetery in eastern France on Monday, with headstones uprooted or broken, the interior ministry said in a statement. READ  

Teen driver who killed four 'had been drinking'
An arrow painted on the road by the police indicates the direction of the road accident. Photo: AFP

Teen driver who killed four 'had been drinking'

The driver of a van which crashed killing four teenagers and injuring ten others in northwestern France over the weekend was under the influence of alcohol, it emerged on Monday. READ  

French beach re-opens to public as Saudis leave
A woman watches as workmen dismantle the lift built for the Saudi royals. Photo: AFP

French beach re-opens to public as Saudis leave

UPDATED: Workers were busily returning a beach in southern France to its previous condition on Monday after the departure of Saudi King Salman, whose commandeering of the coastline had caused uproar among locals. READ  

Experts meet in Paris over Boeing 777 debris
Officials come the waterside in Réunion looking for more clues. Photo: AFP

Experts meet in Paris over Boeing 777 debris

French and Malaysian aviation experts met in Paris on Monday to probe the disappearance of Flight MH370, after mystery plane debris washed up on the French island of Réunion last week. READ  

Summer storms to batter south-western France
The heavy weather is expected to roll in at 7pm, not abating until 6pm on Tuesday. File photo: AFP

Summer storms to batter south-western France

Parts of France's south west are on high alert on Monday with wild weather set to create havoc in three coastal départements from the early evening on. READ  

French transport giant to upgrade London tube
The London underground is set to get some major improvements. Photo: Nico Hogg/Flickr

French transport giant to upgrade London tube

French transport systems giant Thales on Monday announced a €1 billion ($1.09 billion) deal to upgrade four lines of the London Underground. READ  

'Massacre' of black cats shocks Marseille locals
Black cats are being killed in the Marseille housing unit. Photo: nwartist/Flickr

'Massacre' of black cats shocks Marseille locals

A woman who feeds local cats in a Marseille housing block has been left horrified after the gruesome killing of black cats in the area - leaving her to wonder if a neighbour is "very superstitious". READ  

Migrants step up efforts to cross Channel Tunnel
Migrants in Calais are becoming ever-more desperate to cross the Channel to the UK. Photo: AFP

Migrants step up efforts to cross Channel Tunnel

Migrants in Calais made around 1,700 attempts overnight to penetrate the Channel Tunnel premises in a bid to get to England, French police sources said on Monday, and an officer sustained facial injuries from a stone. READ  

Rampaging kids trash French kindergarten
Speaking after the incident, officials in troubled Melun described the scene as an "apocalyptic landscape". File photo: Ella Novak

Rampaging kids trash French kindergarten

Police were called in on Saturday evening after a band of children, some of them as young as five, vandalized a nursery in the suburbs of Paris. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
French court says 'non' to new cockfighting pits
France names capital cities for new regions
Ten things you didn't know about Gay Paris
France eyes boost to holiday leave rights
Business & Money
French dating sites 'not protecting client privacy'
Features
Learn more about the Bayonne festival - France's wildest party
Features
What's on in France: Ten things to do in August
Features
What to see and do at the Paris Plages this summer
Saudi royals 'bar' French policewomen from beach
Take a closer look at the 560,000-year-old tooth found in France
National
Swiss army pilfers French water to give to thirsty cows
National
'B**ch' and 'brainless': French shop slurs clients
Travel
French cops rebel over order to give kids sweets
National
New measures to stop migrant deaths in Calais
Travel
Here are some of the most ridiculous comments you'll read about France
Features
Life may be about to get easier for expats settling in France
National
Burning tyres and blocking roads is just the way the French do strikes
National
Muslim tourists visiting French Alps are reminded of burqa ban
Opinion
Slim and chic: Are French women fed up of the stereotypes?
French officials defend handing public beach over to Saudi royals
Society
French kiss: Should expats in France do 'la bise' among themselves?
National
Paris commuters and tourists face summer of travel trouble
This man learnt the entire French vocabulary in nine weeks, but why?
French speed cameras snare tens of thousands of British drivers
Gallery
What kind of expat in France are you: A lover or a loather?
Society
French tweeters reveal the trials and tribulations of #GrowingupFrench
Where to find the best (and worst) quality of life in France
National
Riviera rumpus as Saudi royals grab public beach all for themselves
What we know about France's foiled terror plot
Features
Here are ten places in Paris where you can escape the summer heat
National
Coup d'état fails in France after being snubbed by military
Are shoppers in northern France the most honest in the world?
French woman fined €90 for driving in flip-flops
Cyclists in Paris get the green light to jump red
'Adieu France': Angry mum's parting rant goes viral
Franco-German rift opens over Greece and it could take time to heal
The Megavalanche: The most spectacular cycling event in France
Ex-French PM's daughter creates a buzz by going topless for photo shoot
Could Parisians be bathing in the Seine by 2024?
Paris unveils new mobile app to help non-French speakers
France declares war on public transport sex pests
So where's the best place to live in France if you want to be happy?
Opinion
Paris: The City of Light, Romance, Style and the worst loos in Europe?
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

3,629
jobs available