SHARE
COPY LINK

AL QAEDA

French anti-terror law to target training camps

France on Wednesday presented plans for a new anti-terrorism law that will allow authorities to prosecute citizens who attend militant Islamist training camps abroad.

French anti-terror law to target training camps
Photo: ISAF

The move comes six months after Mohamed Merah, a French citizen who claimed to have attended Al-Qaeda-style training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan, killed seven people in a wave of shootings in and around Toulouse.

The plans were presented to cabinet on Wednesday and President Francois Hollande hopes parliament will adopt them by the end of the year, government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said.

"The terrorist threat remains at a very high level in France," she said.    

The reforms will allow authorities to detect "the spread of radicalism or jihadism on the Internet and to identify people returning to France after training or participating in terrorist actions" abroad.

The bill would amend France's criminal code to make terrorism-related crimes committed outside France punishable in the country.

Those attending training camps abroad could face up to 10 years in prison for "association with a terrorist enterprise".

The changes would also allow authorities to monitor the telecommunications data of the creators of extremist websites.

French authorities have been criticised for failing to prevent Merah's attacks despite his links with foreign Islamists, which were known to intelligence services.

Merah shot dead three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three paratroopers before being killed himself on March 22nd following a 32-hour police siege of his flat in the southern city of Toulouse.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

TERRORISM

Jihadists escape as cops wait at wrong airport

Confusion reigned Tuesday over the whereabouts of three suspected French jihadists arrested in Turkey who include the brother-in-law of Toulouse killer Mohammed Merah after an apparent bungle by authorities.

Jihadists escape as cops wait at wrong airport
Three suspected jihadists escaped after French cops waited for them at the wrong airport. Photo: Doh!: Shutterstock

France's interior minister on Wednesday announced a wide-ranging probe into a series of blunders that saw three suspected jihadists waltz out of a French airport after being transferred from Turkish custody.

Authorities were left red-faced after an announcement they had arrested the three men at a Paris airport turned out to be false.

To make matters worse, it emerged the suspected French jihadists had been put on a different plane entirely to the southern city of Marseille, where they were — to their apparent surprise — able to walk freely from the airport on Tuesday.

In another snag, passport control failed to flag the men as suspicious, as a security databank was out of order at the time.

The government was however spared further blushes from the fiasco as the men handed themselves over to police on Wednesday — nearly a day later.

They were due to appear before an anti-terrorist judge.

"There was clearly a massive bungle but it was in large part due to … the absence of proper collaboration with Turkish authorities," Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told France Info radio.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told journalists he had called for an administrative enquiry to "get to the bottom of what happened."

He said he would also soon visit Turkey to avoid a repeat of the "malfunction."

'Incredible … but true' 

The trio included the 29-year-old brother-in-law of Toulouse jihadist Mohamed Merah, who was shot dead by police after he murdered seven people, including three children, in a 2012 killing spree.

A 27-year-old previously convicted over terrorism-related charges and links to a jihadist group, was also one of the three arrested in Turkey.

The interior ministry claimed that after the pilot of the Paris-bound flight refused to allow them on board the Turkish authorities put them on the flight to Marseille.

But it insisted that Paris did not become aware of the last-minute change of plan until after the men had landed on French soil.

One of the trio's lawyers, Pierre Dunac, said the men were not questioned when they landed. "As incredible as it might seem, it's true."

The debacle came as France was juggling several extremist threats: Hundreds of citizens leaving to fight in Iraq and Syria, a national taken hostage and threatened with execution in Algeria and Islamic State jihadists calling for Muslims to kill French citizens.

On Friday, France conducted its first air strikes in Iraq against IS.   

"France is not afraid," Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve insisted this week, vowing the country was fully prepared to deal with any threat on home soil.

'Laughing stock' 

Critics of an already deeply unpopular government seized on the blunder, saying the jihadists had "made us the laughing stock of the world."

"So we can send planes to Iraq but we can't control our own borders?" said Christian Estrosi, a former government minister with the conservative opposition UMP.

The three men were thought to have been arrested in Turkey on suspicion of being part of a network that recruited jihadists for Syria.

They handed themselves over to police in the south-western city of Toulouse.   

One of the three, Imad Jebali, "told us by phone that the pressure was too great," said Pierre Le Bonjour, another lawyer for the suspects.

"Clearly from the start… our clients showed a willingness to explain themselves to police and justice officials," he said. "We could only agree that it was the right thing to do."    

French authorities are wary about nationals who have travelled to Syria and Iraq — where the radical Islamic State group occupies large areas — and may return to their home country to stage attacks.

After Mohamed Merah's death, it emerged that he had visited Pakistan and Afghanistan prior to his attacks and had been on the radar of French intelligence, who had gravely underestimated the threat he posed.

Cazeneuve said in June that his sister Souad had gone to Syria. According to a source close to the case, she is currently in Algeria after having left Syria.

In Cazeneuve's view, around 930 French citizens or residents, including at least 60 women, are either actively engaged in jihad in Iraq and Syria or are planning to go.

SHOW COMMENTS