• France edition
 
Al Qaeda threat to France played down by minister
Gare de Lyon, packed during the busy holiday season. French Interior Minister Manuel Valls this week rejected claims Al Qaeda had specifically targeted France's rail network. Photo: B. Guay/AFP

Al Qaeda threat to France played down by minister

Published: 20 Aug 2013 12:20 GMT+02:00
Updated: 20 Aug 2013 12:20 GMT+02:00

Valls was responding to claims in German newspaper Bild on Monday, that the US National Security Agency had listened in on a senior-level Al Qaeda teleconference, where plans to target Europe’s rail system were discussed.

“Our [intelligence] services have produced not a single piece of evidence which lends credibility to these [claims],” Valls told French radio RTL.

“That’s not to say that our vigilance is not total,” he added.

That caution regarding Monday’s NSA claims was echoed by an unnamed source within the French intelligence services, who told France's TF1 TV there had been no threat to “specifically target France.”

“French intelligence agents haven’t received any threat to specifically target France, but there are some worrying elements for northern Europe as a whole,” the source added.

Valls, for his part, reiterated that France was currently on a “Level Red” terrorist alert – the second-highest available threat level.

“Trains, stations and airports, especially during this period of people returning from summer holidays, have all been the subject of regular surveillance measures and security operations,” he said.

The minister warned, however, that the terrorist threat to France was still very real.

“The terrorist threat is present. We’re not minimising that. It doesn’t only come from organized outside groups like Al Qaeda…but also from within, due to the radicalisation of a certain number of individuals and groups who could act,” he added.

France has only once raised its terror alert to the highest level, scarlet – that was in March 2012, when Islamist gunman Mohamed Merah went on a killing spree in and around the southern city of Toulouse.

In January, the alert was raised to “reinforced red” when leaders of militant Islamist groups under attack in Mali warned that France had "opened the doors of hell" by unleashing its warplanes and called on fellow extremists to hit back on French soil.

A week later, the Mauritanian spokesman for a terrorist group responsible for a deadly kidnapping at the In Amenas gas plant in Algeria, delivered a chilling warning to the French public.

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.

Khaled Khelkal was an Algerian terrorist who took part in a series of bomb attacks on the Paris metro in 1995.

Dan MacGuill (dan.macguill@thelocal.com)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Live updates
LIVE: France says Air Algerie jet not shot down
The wreckage of an Air Algerie plane has been found in northern Mali. Photo: Farouk Batiche/AFP

LIVE: France says Air Algerie jet not shot down

The wreckage of the missing Air Algerie flight has been found and authorities say survivors are unlikely. Meanwhile France is ruling out the possibility the jet was shot down, saying bad weather is thus far the apparent cause. READ  

Plane with 51 French on board 'crashes in Mali'
The latest map released by officials in Burkina Faso, showing the presumed site where the plane is believed to have come down. Photo: Airport of Ougadougou

Plane with 51 French on board 'crashes in Mali'

An Air Algérie-operated flight carrying 116 people on board, including 51 French nationals, is believed to have crashed in Mali on Thursday. There have been unconfirmed reports that the wreckage of the plane has been found. READ  

French cops find arsenal on London-bound bus
French border police find an arsenal of weapons on board a Eurolines bus. Photo: Sludge Gulper/FLickr

French cops find arsenal on London-bound bus

French border police seized a small arsenal of firearms and ammunition they found stowed aboard a bus that was passing through France on its way to London, French media reported on Thursday. Officers are still looking for the owner of the weapons. READ  

France is among EU's biggest public spenders
France is one of Europe's biggest spenders, but its not getting great services. Photo: Pascal Pavani/AFP

France is among EU's biggest public spenders

The French government is the third biggest public spender in Europe, yet the quality of the health, pension and education services its paying for are significantly lower than other EU countries. A new government study explains why. READ  

Gaza crisis
France to release €11m in aid for Palestinians
An injured Palestinian is rushed to hospital in Gaza for treatment. Photo: Mahmud Hams/AFP

France to release €11m in aid for Palestinians

BREAKING NEWS: France is to hand over €11 million worth of aid for Palestinians in Gaza, President François Hollande announced on Thursday morning after meeting with several NG0s at the Elysée Palace. READ  

Report - Jobs for robots
'Half of jobs in France' under threat from robots
Half of the jobs in France could soon be carried out by robots. Better think about retraining. Shutterstock

'Half of jobs in France' under threat from robots

It might be a good time to think about a career change, because according to a report from a leading Brussels think-tank, half of the jobs currently being done in France could be taken over by robots in the next 20 years. READ  

Tête-à-tête - Part 2
'Foreigners pay taxes so they should get the vote'
"This is not about halal meat in schools, it's about democracy" Should non-EU foreigners get the right to vote in France? Photo: Marc Lagneau/Flickr

'Foreigners pay taxes so they should get the vote'

In the second part of our tête-a-tête on whether foreigners in France should be given the vote, we hear from one of the leaders of the campaign calling for it to happen, who insists "it's about democracy, not bringing in halal meals in schools". READ  

IN IMAGES: Paris protest in support of Palestinians
Members of a Jewish anti-zionist group joined protesters on Wednesday to call for an end to Israel's offensive in Gaza. Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard

IN IMAGES: Paris protest in support of Palestinians

Up to 25,000 demonstrators marched through the streets of Paris on Wednesday to protest against the Israeli offensive in Gaza. Here's a selection of images from the rally, that took place amid tight security. READ  

UBS bank 'charged with tax fraud' in France
UBS bank has been charged with tax fraud in France, sources say, for helping French nationals hide money in Swiss accounts. Photo: AFP

UBS bank 'charged with tax fraud' in France

Swiss bank UBS was on Wednesday charged with tax fraud in Paris for allegedly helping rich French clients to hide money in Switzerland, a judicial source said. READ  

Paris: Thousands march in pro-Palestinian demo
Thousands of protesters hit the streets of Paris to oppose Israel's Gaza incursion. Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP

Paris: Thousands march in pro-Palestinian demo

Thousands marched through Paris on Wednesday to denounce Israel's ongoing assault on Gaza amid tight security. The demo passed off peacefully with many protesters expressing their anger with the French government for not doing enough to halt the bloodshed in the Middle East. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Why you should think twice about feeding stray cats in France
National
And the new redrawn map of France will look like...?
Politics
Is French President François Hollande about to tie the knot?
International
Want a long-term visa? You may soon have to take a French test
International
Votes for foreigners: 'France would be giving up its sovereignty'
National
VIDEO: Stuntman jumps onto a moving Paris metro... and survives
Gallery
Forget 'faire l'amour', here's 15 top French expressions for making love
National
Report - 'Anti-Semitic' riots in France: 'We may leave for Israel'
National
Paris Plages: Here's 10 reasons to head down to the city beach
International
'Mont Blanc is like Disneyland. It's time to end the free-for-all'
Travel
Fancy climbing Mont Blanc? Here's 10 reasons to think twice about it
Gallery
Looking for a weird museum in Paris? Here's 10 that are worth a visit
National
Clear your head: Eight tips for buying wine in a French supermarket
National
'Don't blame the labour market for France's unemployment woes!'
National
Job applicants in France: Be prepared to send in an anonymous CV
Sport
'Bouligans' to booze bans: Ten things you need to know about pétanque
Gallery
Driving in France: How to stay out of trouble on the roads
Travel
Ten essential free phone apps for a visit to Paris
Gallery
Like cycling? Love France? See the top ten best cycling routes in France
International
'They think beer is a vegetable': What the French really think of Germans
National
Sarkozy's dream of a 2017 comeback is not dead yet
Gallery
Ten reasons why France is better than Germany (we're not talking football)
Gallery
Paris in Summer: Ten things to do on a shoestring
Sponsored Article
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
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