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CRIME

France smashes neo-Nazi cell over plot ‘to attack Muslims and Jews’

French police smashed a neo-Nazi cell accused of plotting attacks on Jewish or Muslim places of worship, judicial sources said Tuesday.

France smashes neo-Nazi cell over plot 'to attack Muslims and Jews'
Illustration photo: RAID police unit officers/AFP
Five members of the group, who were “close in ideology to the neo-Nazi movement” were charged between September and May over the alleged plot, which was still “ill-defined”, a source close to the investigation said. 
 
“The investigation suggested they were developing an ill-defined plot to carry out an attack, likely to target a place of worship,” the judicial source said.
 
The investigation had been ongoing for several months, leading to the arrest of five people who were planning attacks against several targets, including the annual dinner of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (CRIF) and Muslim places of worship, according to reports. 
 
Among the suspects are an assistant volunteer constable and a 15-year-old, according to reports in the French press. The arrests are believed to have taken place between September 2018 and the end of May 2019.
 
'The worst since WWII': Macron announces new steps to fight anti-Jewish hatredMacron addressing Jewish community leaders at the annual dinner of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (CRIF). Photo: AFP
 
The five suspects had named their group 'L'Oiseau Noir' ('Black Bird) and they communicated via a forum where they discussed the possibilities of an attack, it was reported. 
 
The investigation was opened after the September 2018 arrest of a volunteer constable whose contract was expiring in Grenoble, with investigators finding Kalashnikovs, explosives, a Glock pistol and a rifle at their home. 
 
The investigation led them to the four other suspects, two of them minors.
 
Anti-terrorism investigators took over the investigation in January and charged the suspects with terror offences, including making and transporting explosive devices and being part of a terrorist conspiracy.
 
In June 2018, 13 people with links to the radical far-right were arrested by anti-terrorist police in France over an alleged plot to attack Muslims, judical sources said at the time.
 
The arrests were made late Saturday in operations across France, including the Mediterranean island of Corsica.
 
The suspects had an “ill-defined plan to commit a violent act targeting people of the Muslim faith,” one source close to the probe had said.
   
Another source said the gang was looking to hit “targets linked to radical Islam”.
 
While France has repeatedly been targeted by jihadists since 2015, a handful of alleged plots involving far-right extremists have made headlines in recent months.
  
In November, six people were arrested over an alleged plot to attack President Emmanuel Macron.
   
In July 2017, a 23-year-old was charged with plotting to assassinate the president at France's Bastille Day military parade.
  
The man told investigators he wanted to kill Macron along with “Muslims, Jews, blacks and homosexuals,” and three kitchen knives were found in his car.

Member comments

  1. Being a AA I see some of the same right wing racist are active here.They are usually people with psychological defects.Not feeling excepted low self esteem,etc .America still has some of these miscreants in the current political climate but I’m confident when the new POTUS comes to power it will lessen.God Bless America !

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CRIME

French court jails for life sole surviving Paris 2015 attacker

The sole surviving member of an Islamic State terror cell that killed 130 people in Paris in November 2015 was handed a whole-life sentence on Wednesday at the end of a trial that aimed to draw a line under the worst peace-time atrocity in modern French history.

French court jails for life sole surviving Paris 2015 attacker

Salah Abdeslam, a 32-year-old Frenchman of Moroccan origin, was captured alive by police four months after the bloodbath at the Bataclan concert hall and other locations.

His sentence, the toughest possible, was read out by the head of five-judge panel overseeing the trial of 20 men accused of involvement in the assault on the capital.

Wearing a khaki-coloured polo shirt, he stood motionless and showed no emotion as he was declared guilty and sentenced by chief judge Louis Peries during an hour-long speech.

“The sentences are quite heavy,” one tearful survivor, Sophie, told AFP as she left the court in central Paris. “I feel a lot of relief. Ten months of hearings — it’s helped us to rebuild.”

The trial has been the biggest in modern French history, the culmination of a six-year international investigation whose findings run to more than a million pages.

READ MORE: The difficult and emotional search for truth at France’s biggest terrorism trial

The other 19 suspects, accused of either plotting or offering logistical support, were also found guilty, with their sentences ranging from two years to life in prison.

All of the attackers except for Abdeslam blew themselves up or were killed by police during or after the assault.

Hundreds of victims and witnesses packed out the benches of the specially constructed courtroom as the sentences were read out.

“My first reaction is that we have the feeling of turning a page after the verdicts,” Gerard Chemla, a lawyer representing victims at the trial, told reporters.

Change of heart?

Abdeslam had begun his appearances last September by defiantly declaring himself as an “Islamic State fighter” but finished tearfully apologising to victims and asking for leniency.

In his final statement, he urged the judges not to give him a full-life term, seeking to emphasise that he had not killed anyone himself.

“I made mistakes, it’s true. But I’m not a murderer, I’m not a killer,” he said.

His lawyers had also argued against the whole-life sentence, which prosecutors had demanded.

It offers only a small chance of parole after 30 years and has been pronounced only four times previously since being created in 1994.

Abdeslam, a one-time pot-smoking lover of parties, discarded his suicide belt on the night of the attack and fled back to his hometown, Brussels, where many of the extremists lived.

He told the court that he had had a change of heart and decided not to kill people.

“I changed my mind out of humanity, not out of fear,” he insisted.

But after hearing that his suicide belt was defective, the judges concluded that this “cast serious doubt” on his apparent “renunciation”.

They ruled he was a “co-author” of the attacks which “constituted a single crime scene.” 

Trauma

A team of 10 jihadists laid siege to the French capital, attacking the national sports stadium, bars, and the Bataclan in an assault immediately claimed from Syria by the IS group.

The attacks shocked France, with the choice of targets and the manner of the violence seemingly designed to inflict maximum fear, just 10 months after a separate assault on the Charlie Hebdo magazine.

In one instance, the court heard a recording of gunmen taunting people trapped in the Bataclan as they fired on them with Kalashnikov machine guns from a balcony above.

The huge loss of life marked the start of a gruesome and violent period in Europe as IS ramped up attacks across the continent.

France, under then president Francois Hollande, declared the country “at war” with the extremists and their self-proclaimed caliphate in Syria and Iraq.

Hollande, who testified in November, called the trial “exceptional” and “exemplary”, adding in a statement that the accused had been “judged with respect for the law”.

The 10-month process had “enabled us to look for the truth in order to better understand the course of Islamist terrorism”, he said.

Other culprits

In the absence of the rest of the attackers, the men on trial besides Abdeslam were suspected of offering mostly logistical support or plotting other attacks. 

Only 14 out of the 20 appeared in person, with the rest missing, presumed dead.

One of them, Mohamed Abrini, admitted to driving some of the Paris attackers to the capital and explained how he was meant to take part but backed out.

The court handed him a life sentence with 22 years as a minimum term.

Also on trial was Swedish citizen Osama Krayem, who has been identified in a notorious IS video showing a Jordanian pilot being burned alive in a cage.

He was sentenced to 30 years in jail and ordered to serve two thirds of it behind bars, as was fellow jihadist Sofian Ayari, a Tunisian arrested along with Abdeslam in Brussels in March 2015.

The pair were suspected of planning an attack on Amsterdam airport.

All of the convicted are able to appeal their verdicts and sentences.

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