Published: 22 Jan 2013 13:04 GMT+01:00 | Print version
Updated: 22 Jan 2013 13:04 GMT+01:00
The jihadist group believed to be behind the deadly hostage siege in Algeria has issued a series of alarming threats against France, warning that last week’s mass kidnapping at the In Amenas gas plant was “only the beginning.”
Speaking to French weekly Paris Match, the spokesman for the cell known as "Those Who Sign In Blood", which is headed by notorious Mokhtar Belmokhtar said "French crusaders, Zionist Jews and their minions, will pay for their aggression against Muslims in northern Mali."
In a warning deliberately aimed to stir up fear in France, the spokesman, who called himself Joulaybib, said there would be repeats of recent terror attacks carried out on French soil by self-proclaimed Islamist extremists.
“I hope France realizes that there will be dozens of Merahs and Kelkals," Joulaybib said.
Mohamed Merah was the 23-year-old French-Algerian gunman who caused terror throughout France in March 2012, when he killed seven people, including three French soldiers, a rabbi and three Jewish schoolchildren in the south-western cities of Toulouse and Montauban. Khaled Khelkal was an Algerian terrorist who took part in a series of bomb attacks on the Paris metro in 1995.
Joulaybib, a Mauritanian national whose real name, according to Paris Match, is Hacen Ould Khalil, also promised that “the In Amenas attack is only the beginning."
Speaking by telephone, the Islamist spokesman also laid out the hostage-takers' three demands; an end to the French offensive against Islamist militants in Mali, the release of ‘Blind Sheikh’ Omar Abdel-Rahman, currently imprisoned in the US for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombings, and the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist serving an 86-year jail sentence in the US.
Former intelligence agency officer Yves Trotignon told The Local France should be more concerned about the threat from individual extremists acting alone than from foreign terror networks like Belmokhtar's.
"The real fear is that individuals, who have their own causes, take matters into their own hands. I am doubtful Belmokhtar can launch an attack on French soil because these people are not as well connected as they were in the 1980s. The networks are not there anymore," Trotignon, who now works for international security specialists Risk & Co said.
The conversation – reported in the magazine on Monday – took place at the height of last week's hostage crisis, before an Algerian government raid on the complex brought it to a bloody end on January 19th. The latest death toll given by Algerian authorities said 38 hostages (all but one of them foreign) and 29 hostage takers died in the siege.
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