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TERRORISM

France places Afghan evacuee suspected of Taliban links under surveillance

France has placed under surveillance an Afghan evacuated from Kabul who is suspected of links to the Taliban, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Monday.

France places Afghan evacuee suspected of Taliban links under surveillance
A French soldier stands guard as people wait in a reunion and evacuation center at the French military air base 104 of Al Dhafra, near Abu Dhabi. Photo: BERTRAND GUAY / AFP.

About 1,300 Afghans have in recent days been evacuated by France via a military base in Abu Dhabi, after President Emmanuel Macron said the country was opening its arms to people under threat from the Taliban.

Four others thought to be close to the main suspect are also the subject of surveillance measures by French intelligence, Darmanin told AFP.

“We believe that he may be linked to the Taliban even if this person greatly helped in the evacuation from the French embassy,” the minister said of the main suspect.

According to a ministerial document seen by AFP, the man admitted his membership of the Taliban and said he had worked as the armed head of a Taliban checkpoint in Kabul.

“Given the considerable difficulties of carrying out security investigations on the people being repatriated”, the French authorities “agreed to take this person and his family on board” the evacuation flight, the minister said.

When the man arrived in Abu Dhabi, France’s DGSI intelligence agency carried out investigations and he has now been notified of the surveillance order, as have the four other evacuees believed to be linked to him, Darmanin said.

Macron promised in a televised address last week that France would “protect those who are most under threat in Afghanistan” while also vowing Europe would put together a “robust” initiative to thwart illegal migration and in particular people-smuggling networks.

“We must anticipate and protect ourselves against significant irregular migratory flows that would endanger the migrants and risk encouraging trafficking of all kinds,” he said.

His comments angered the French left and activists who argued he had implied that France would let only a limited number of people in and turn a blind eye to many Afghans who needed help.

Migration is due to be one of the most contentious battlegrounds as Macron prepares for 2022 presidential elections that may come down to a duel with the far-right.

Member comments

  1. Don’t worry. It’ll take him at least a year to get a carte vital and about 10 months and a dozen or so documents for a carte de sejour.

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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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