• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3

'Homegrown jihadists are France's gravest threat'

AFP/The Local · 3 Jun 2014, 13:23

Published: 03 Jun 2014 13:23 GMT+02:00

France on Tuesday increased its estimate of the number of its nationals embroiled in Syria's civil war to more than 800 and warned that they pose an unprecedented security threat.

The warning, from Prime Minister Manuel Valls, followed the weekend arrest of Medhi Nemmouche, a French jihadist suspected of carrying out last week's Brussels Jewish Museum killings after spending a year fighting in Syria.

Valls told BFMTV that the numbers of French citizens or residents who have taken part in the fighting in Syria or were planning to do so now exceeds 800, including some 30 who have died in the conflict.

"We have never before faced a challenge of this kind," Valls said. "It is without any doubt the most serious threat we face.

"We have to ensure the surveillance of hundreds and hundreds of French or European individuals who are today fighting in Syria."

Nemmouche was arrested in Marseille on Friday carrying weapons similar to those used in the Brussels attack and a camera containing a short film in which he appears to claim responsibility for the assassin-style shooting.

A visiting Israeli couple and a French volunteer at the museum were killed outright and another man, a museum employee, was left in a critical condition from which he has no prospect of recovery.

Nemmouche is thought to be the first veteran of the Syrian conflict to have carried out an attack of this kind in Europe.

Many terrorism experts have warned it is inevitable that there will be others as battle-hardened, traumatised and weapons-trained militants make their way back to France and countries such as Belgium, Denmark and Britain, which have also tracked hundreds of their citizens on the jihad trail to Syria.

Nemmouche has been compared to fellow Frenchman Mohammed Merah, the Islamist gunman who shot seven people -- a rabbi, three Jewish children and three French paratroopers -- in the southern city of Toulouse in March 2012.

'Dozens of Merahs'

After those killings, which have been followed by a sustained rise in Jewish emigration from France to Israel, Valls warned that the country could be harbouring "dozens of Merahs."

Asked Tuesday if he stood by that view, he replied: "Of course," but he also defended the record of the security services in preventing further atrocities.

"We have arrested individuals, we have dismantled (terrorist) cells," he said. "There have been many threats against France."

Nemmouche has been under interrogation by French anti-terrorism police since his arrest, which happened purely by chance as a result of the coach he was travelling on being subjected to a random customs check on its arrival in Marseille.

Story continues below…

Police sources have told AFP that he has refused to answer questions.    

He is due to appear in court in Versailles on Wednesday to be notified of a request for him to be handed over to Belgium under a European arrest warrant.

A hearing on the request scheduled for Tuesday could not take place because Nemmouche refused to leave his cell.

"It is a personal decision," his lawyer, Apolin Peziepep, told AFP. The lawyer said he did not expect Nemmouche to oppose the warrant.

State prosecutors on Tuesday filed a request for the suspect's detention to be extended beyond four days without charge. Such a move is extremely rare in France and requires a judge's authorisation but was not expected to raise any problem in this case.

AFP/The Local (joshua.melvin@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Ten tips for writing the perfect French CV
Stuck on choosing the perfect font? Follow our tips. Photo: Nguyen Vu Hung/Flickr

Outrageous French chateaux you can rent for a weekend
All photos: Airbnb

Looking for a different way to celebrate something? Look no further.

Paris Fringe Festival to showcase English arts scene
Performer from Fringe, '33 (a kabarett)- Bremner sings. Photo: The Paris Fringe

Here's all you need to know about the newest and most unique arts and theatre festival that's on the way to Paris.

'People smugglers' in France police chase are Iraqi Kurds
All four people in the suspect car were injured in the crash, two of them seriously. Photo: Alexis Constant/La Voix du Nord/ AFP

UPDATE: Four suspected people smugglers whose car was involved in a collision with a lorry after a high-speed police chase in northern France are Iraqi Kurds.

Why are the French shrugging their shoulders at Brexit?
Photo: Jan Lewandowski/Flickr

One thing has surprised author Stephen Clarke about the French attitude towards a potential Brexit - their sheer indifference.

China is winning war of the worlds in giant Paris art show
Artist Huang Yong Ping. Photo: Joel Saget/AFP

Monumental modern art doesn't come much more spectacular than this.

Universities dismiss 'lottery' for Paris medical students
Photo: AFP

University authorities have denied claims that Paris medical students will be selected at random.

Paris love lock tour group: 'We don't hang any locks'
A file pic of the padlocks at the Archeveche bridge in Paris. Photo: AFP

A love lock tour group that's been slammed by an outraged public has said they don't actually hang padlocks on Paris bridges.

French mechanic finds 'long-lost Renoir' online for €700
An art expert examines a different Renoir painting. Photo: Paul J Richards/AFP

Authentic works by Renoir have reached up to $78 million at auction... so is this one for real?

VIDEO: Outrage after French police humiliate amputee
A screengrab from the video. Photo: Jean-Didier Bakekolo

A man has captured on camera what he called "unprecedented brutality" by police.

Sponsored Article
How to launch your international career
Society
'Love lock' tour companies spark anger in Paris
Sponsored Article
What's the best way for expats to transfer money abroad?
Society
Viagra, booze, cheese: The 29 maps that paint the picture of France
National
Why does 'everyone in France hate the police'?
Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
Society
Bring on the summer: Nine Paris parks to stay open 24 hours a day
National
Le Soleil! French set to enjoy long Ascension weekend in the sun
May the 4th be with you: How the French translated Star Wars
National
Why France has a major problem with the US and EU free trade deal
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Proust's personal archives to go under the hammer in Paris
National
Who exactly are the masked rioters causing havoc across France?
French rail passengers must now pay to change their tickets
Travel
Here are nine must-see landmarks in Paris you may have missed
Society
Paris makes love-lock bridge even more love-lock proof
Lifestyle
Parisians paying dearly for their bad 'parking'
Society
What's on in France: Ten great things to do in May
Society
Protesters clash with police over France's new labour laws
National
French dangerously 'unprepared' for future natural disasters
Is it really safe to come to France for Euro 2016?
National
Salah Abdeslam: Pot-smoking 'little moron' is finally back in Paris
Rail strike: Passengers in France face major disruption
Cats in a cafe?!? Nine of the quirkiest things you can see in Paris
National
VIDEO: The moment a Paris suicide bomber blew himself up
National
Why there's another rail strike in France and why there will be more
Lifestyle
VIDEO: Did you know all these stars spoke great French?
2,770
jobs available