• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Were French jihadists among hostage-takers?

Ben McPartland · 21 Jan 2013, 13:40

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

Story continues below…

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
Hollande calls on UK to help solve Calais migrant crisis
Photo: AFP

The French president knows that immigration is a key issue of the presidential election battle.

Air France plane dumps fuel 'over Fontainebleau forest'
Photo: AFP

The mayor of the famous town near Paris is furious.

IN PICS: Walkers and cyclists take over Paris streets
Photo: Paris City Hall

Did you make the most of the car-free day in Paris on Sunday?

'War crimes committed in Aleppo': French UN envoy
A tractor clears rubble after a government strike on rebel areas of Aleppo. Photo: Thaer Mohammed/ AFP

France's envoy to the United Nations has called for an urgent Security Council meet on the war crimes he asserts are being committed in Aleppo.

'Curse of Phantom' strikes as Paris theatre burns
Anthony Crivello and Elizabeth Loyacano in the New York production of Phantom of the Opera. Photo: Really Useful Group

The curse of Phantom of the Opera has struck with a fire at a Paris theatre threatening the musical's French debut.

Two teenage girls held in France over 'terror plot'
The girls came from the same part of Nice, near Route de Turin, as Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who carried out the nice attacks. Photo: Jesmar/Wikimedia Commons

Two teenage girls from Nice are being held on suspicion of planning a jihadi attack.

Focus
French fighter jet deal: India 'a school of patience'
Rafale jets at an assembly hanger in Merignac, southwestern France. Photo: Jean-Pierre Muller/AFP

The less-than-supersonic sale of French Rafale fighter jets to India has highlighted the obstacles facing foreign arms firms seeking to do business with the world's biggest weapons importer.

Hollande vows to 'completely dismantle' Calais Jungle
French President Francois Hollande visiting a refugee centre in Tours. Photo: Guillaume Souvant/AFP

President Francois Hollande has bowed to right-wing pressure and stepped up pledge to combat illegal migration.

First driverless minibus goes on trial in Paris
Gilbert Gagnaire, Director General of Easy Mile, poses in front of his driverless EZ10 minibus. Photo: Eric Feferberg/AFP

The French capital's transport authority will carry out its first test of a driverless minibus on Saturday.

Feature
Room for improvement: Paris's matchbox apartments
Receptionist Ivan Lopez in his tiny "chambre de bonne". Photo: Thomas Samson/AFP

Thousands of Parisians round off a hard day's work with a trudge up six flights of stairs to a tiny, stuffy room they resignedly call home.

Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
'Stop telling immigrants to be French and help it happen'
Society
Take the test: How far have you assimilated into French culture?
Lifestyle
Eleven things you should know before moving to Paris
National
France's Marion Cotillard rebuffs rumours of fling with Brad Pitt
National
Eight arrested over links to Nice truck attacker
Features
Why everyone should party in a French chateau at least once
Travel
The Frenchman who hated 'Nazi-Zealand' after four-day hitch-hike fail
Culture
What's on: Ten exciting events across France in September
The 45-million year old underground shells that flavour Champagne
Features
French job speak: All the terms you need to know
'Resilient' Paris now a more appealing city than New York
National
France says it's OK to warn drivers about speed cameras
Meet Honorine, 113, the oldest person in France
Education
Grenoble named France's best city to be a student
Society
New Metro map reveals cheapest pints of beer in Paris
Business & Money
How reliant is the French economy on Paris?
Society
Here's why Parisians want to move to Bordeaux
And the 'best place to spend a weekend in Europe' is… Lyon
Analysis & Opinion
'Muslims in France must be considered ordinary citizens'
Armed guards to ride French trains from October
National
France among Europe's priciest for train travel
National
Paris set to make river bank car-free for six-month trial
Society
Bordeaux hospital ranked as best in France
2,727
jobs available