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TERRORISM

Carcassonne gunman NOT given French nationality after being put on terror watch list

Reports that Carcassonne gunman Radouane Lakdim was given French nationality even after being flagged up as a potential terror threat sparked anger in France over the weekend. The news turned out to be false but questions remain about the decision to end his surveillance.

There was much anger and incomprehension in France and indeed around the world at the weekend after it was reported that the Moroccan-born Carcassonne gunman who killed four in a shooting spree on Friday had been given French nationality even after being placed on France's terror watch list.

Radouane Lakdim, 26, killed four people in a shooting rampage in Carcassonne and nearby Trèbes on Friday including a 45-year-old gendarme who had swapped himself for a hostage at a supermarket.

As always after a terror attack questions were asked about whether the attacker was on the radar of France's intelligence services for being a potential threat.

Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told media shortly after the end of Friday's siege that Lakdim, already a convicted criminal after being found guilty of carrying a concealed firearm in 2011, had been flagged up as a danger in 2014 and placed under surveillance.

He was added to the intelligence services “Fiche S” list for radicalization. The list contains thousands of names who are considered a potential danger to the state and has included the names of previous terrorists who then went on to commit attacks in France.

On Friday evening BFM TV reported that Lakdim was given French nationality in 2015, a year after being placed on the watch list. The report provoked much anger, with social media being used by many to vent their fury.

“Fiche S in 2014 + French national in 2015 = 4 dead in 2018,” said one tweeter, summing up the incomprehension.

Another tweeted: “Incredible that a someone Fiché S and convicted could be naturalised in 2015.”

The report was seized upon by France's far right National Front party whose leader Marine Le Pen has long called for any foreign nationals and those with dual nationality who are on France's Fiche S list to be immediately expelled from the country.

Deputy leader of the National Front Louis Aliot demanded an inquiry be opened to find out who decided to give Lakdim French nationality.

However BFM TV's information proved to be false.

In fact Lakdim gained French nationality in 2004 at the age of 12, when his father became a French national, several French media sites reported.

Nevertheless the false information continued to circulate around social media channels.

French authorities are however not off the hook and questions remain around the surveillance of Lakdim. After spending a month in prison in 2016 it was clear to authorities that he was still radicalized.

Lakdim was placed under surveillance again in 2016 after his release and was kept under watch in 2017 but according to specialist terrorism prosecutor Francois Molins, he gave no sign that was ready to commit a terrorist act.

His surveillance was then stopped, a move that has also sparked incomprehension given his past.

The question of how France can keep tabs on the thousands of individuals flagged up as Fiche S has not seem to have been resolved since France's recent spate of terror attacks began in January 2015, despite being raised after each attack.

While some on the far right call for them to be expelled, others on the right, notably leader of the Republicans party Laurent Wauquiez has demanded internment.

Some right wing MPs have called a Guantanamo Bay-style prison to be opened on a French island to house all radicalized individuals.

Others accept that French intelligence services simply don't have the resources to be able to keep tabs on all radicalized individuals.

“We do not have enough police to be able to follow each of radicalized individual because there are much more serious cases that take priority,” said centrist senator Nathalie Goulet.

France's intelligence services helped thwart 20 attacks in 2017 and two other planned atrocities this year.

But just like his predecessors President Emmanuel Macron is under pressure to respond.

 

 

TERRORISM

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks

US Vice President Kamala Harris and French Prime Minister Jean Castex laid wreaths at a Paris cafe and France's national football stadium Saturday six years since deadly terror attacks that left 130 people dead.

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks
US Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff lay flowers after ceremonies at Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant, at which 130 people were killed during the 2015 Paris terror attacks. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney/POOL/AFP

The attacks by three separate teams of Islamic State group jihadists on the night of November 13, 2015 were the worst in France since World War II.

Gunmen mowed down 129 people in front of cafes and at a concert hall in the capital, while a bus driver was killed after suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates of the stadium in its suburbs.

Harris, wrapping up a four-day trip to France, placed a bouquet of white flowers in front of a plaque honouring the victims outside a Paris cafe.

Castex attended a minute of silence at the Stade de France football stadium, along with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, before laying wreaths at the sites of the other attacks inside Paris.

In front of the Bataclan concert hall, survivors and relatives of the victims listened to someone read out the names of each of the 90 people killed during a concert there six years ago.

Public commemorations of the tragedy were called off last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Last year we weren’t allowed to come and we all found it really tough,” said Bruno Poncet, who made it out alive of the Bataclan.

But he said the start of a trial over the attacks in September meant that those attending the commemoration this year felt more united.

‘Overcome it all’

“We’ve really bonded thanks to the trial,” he said. “During previous commemorations, we’d spot each other from afar without really daring to speak to each other. We were really shy. But standing up in court has really changed everything.”

The marathon trial, the biggest in France’s modern legal history, is expected to last until May 2022.

Twenty defendants are facing sentences of up to life in prison, including the sole attacker who was not gunned down by police, Salah Abdeslam, a French-Moroccan national who was captured in Brussels. Six of the defendants are being tried in absentia.

Poncet said he felt it was crucial that he attend the hearings. “I can’t possibly not. It’s our lives that are being discussed in that room, and it’s important to come to support the others and to try to overcome it all.”

Survivors have taken to the witness stand to recount the horror of the attacks, but also to describe life afterwards.

Several said they had been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, grappling with survivor’s guilt, or even feeling alienated from the rest of society.

Saturday’s commemorations are to wrap up with a minute of silence at the Stade de France in the evening before the kick-off for a game between France and Kazakhstan.

It was during a football match between France and Germany that three suicide bombers blew themselves up in 2015.

Then-French president Francois Hollande was one of the 80,000 people in the crowd, before he was discreetly whisked away to avoid triggering mass panic.

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