• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Al Qaeda threat to France played down by minister

Dan MacGuill · 20 Aug 2013, 12:20

Published: 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.

Story continues below…

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)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
French towns divided over taking in Calais migrants
Photo: AFP

Towns across France are arguing over whether to take in migrants soon to be evacuated from the Calais "jungle" camp.

Paris region eyes up cable cars to unclog traffic jams
Could something like this be the future of transport in Paris? Photo: AFP

Did you know there are 12 cable car projects around the Paris region? Better than the RER trains surely?

Dos and don'ts to help you cope with writing in French

Writing emails in French is a whole new challenge that requires a whole new set of tips.

French writing phrases you can't get your head around
Photo: Ray Sadler/Flickr

Cher readers... Hope this helps. Cordialement, The Local

Paris banking district stages France's latest mock attack
Photo: AFP

The La Defense business district in Paris was the scene of the latest mock terror attack last night, as French authorities continue to take no chances.

French cows die after eating all winter stock in one night
File photo: AFP

Half a herd of cows ate themselves to death on cereals.

Grape thieves pilfer what's left of Burgundy wine harvests
Photo: AFP

Fed up with seeing thieves pilfer their precious grapes, vineyard owners in the famous region of Burgundy are taking extreme measures for the first time.

France to clamp down on rip-off home repair workers
All photos: AFP

Ever feel you've been ripped off by a plumber, electrician, or locksmith in France?

'Rogues' go on trial for ripping shirts of Air France bosses
Photo: AFP

A court in France will decide whether ripping the shirt off your boss's back is all part and parcel of a French labour dispute.

Hollande dealt major blow as jobless rate shoots up
Photo: AFP

The news could dissuade President François Hollande from even running for re-election.

Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Culture
The crazy French writing phrases you can't get your head around
Features
Room for improvement: Paris's matchbox apartments
'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
2,732
jobs available