Posts Tagged ‘france’
France Arrests 2 Men in Terrorist Plot – Voice of America
Last Updated on Thursday, 4 November 2010 09:28 Written by admin Thursday, 4 November 2010 09:28
04 November 2010
French authorities are questioning two men suspected of plotting a serious terror attack in France. The incident comes after a series of heightened warnings including one by al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
In an interview on French television Thursday morning, Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux said two men were being questioned on suspicions of terrorist activity after being detained the day before outside Paris.
Hortefeux says the men are brothers of French nationality. He says they are suspected of plotting a serious terrorist attack on French soil.
In September, France notched up its terrorist alert to reinforced red – its second highest of four levels – following a series of warnings and threats.
Last week, the television network al Jazeera broadcast an audiotape apparently by al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, warning France it would face killings and kidnappings if it did not withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. The recording also took issue with a new French law banning veils that cover the face.
Hortefeux says the audiotape was almost certainly authentic and it represents the first time al Qaida had exclusively targeted France.
There have been other recent, and more general, threats, including packaged explosives heading to the United States and.
In addition, booby-trapped packages have been found in Greece, including one addressed to French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Greek authorities suspect they are the work of anarchists.
On Wednesday, the French government announced tougher security checks on airline passengers traveling to France.
Hortefeux says 85 people have been questioned so far this year on terrorist suspicions. About 27 are in jail.
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France Downplays Bin Laden Tape, Says It Will Remain Vigilant – BusinessWeek
Last Updated on Thursday, 28 October 2010 09:26 Written by admin Thursday, 28 October 2010 09:26
October 28, 2010, 11:37 AM EDT
By Gregory Viscusi
Oct. 28 (Bloomberg) — France played down new threats of attacks from al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, while saying it will remain vigilant.
In the recording aired by Al Jazeera television yesterday, and declared authentic by the French Foreign Ministry, Saudi- born Bin Laden warned France that its security is at risk if it continues to support U.S. policies toward Muslim-majority countries and prevent Muslim women from wearing veils.
“This message, whose authenticity can be accepted after the first verifications, does nothing more than confirm the reality of the terrorist menace against which the French authorities continue to take appropriate measures,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said in an e-mailed response to questions.
Bin Laden linked the Sept. 15 kidnapping of five French nationals and two African colleagues in northern Niger to the presence of French troops in Afghanistan and to a law passed in September that bans full facial veils. The hostages are being held by an al-Qaeda offshoot that operates in the Sahara desert. The Foreign Ministry has refused to make any comments on any possible negotiations to free the hostages.
“Bin Laden lacks the logistical ability to launch attacks in the West, so he’s exploiting the Niger hostage situation to menace France and get media exposure,” said Karim Pakzad, a researcher at IRIS, the French Institute for International Strategic Affairs. “But that doesn’t mean the government isn’t right to be concerned, because any individual could take it upon himself to try an attack.”
Eiffel Tower Evacuations
In late September, officials of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government signaled an elevated risk of attacks, and the Eiffel Tower was evacuated twice last month on false bomb alerts.
Following the evacuations, French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux said, “several events remind us that we find ourselves in a period that demands greater vigilance, particularly against the risk of terrorist attacks.”
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the group which claimed the Niger kidnapping, declared allegiance to Bin Laden in 2007, though terrorist experts are divided about whether there are any operational links between them and Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda remnants, believed to be hiding on the Afghan-Pakistan border.
Defense Minister Herve Morin indicated today that France may start withdrawing some of its 3,750 troops in Afghanistan next year, although he said this decision was part of a timetable agreed to with its allies and had nothing to do with Bin Laden’s message.
“That’s the calendar set by Barack Obama, that in 2011 the first American troops could quit Afghanistan,” Morin said on RTL radio. “And that’s what a certain number of European countries have started to say.”
Morin said that under a calendar set by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, France next year could turn over responsibility for the Sarobi area east of Kabul to Afghan security forces.
Bin Laden issued two recordings early this month dealing with the flooding in Pakistan. While most videos and recordings by Bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri have threatened the U.S., they’ve also mentioned European countries with troops in Afghanistan such as Britain, Germany, Italy and Denmark.
The last terrorist attacks in France were in 1995.
–Editors: Vidya Root, Alan Crawford
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Osama bin Laden threatens French troops, criticizes France burqa ban – Christian Science Monitor
Last Updated on Thursday, 28 October 2010 06:26 Written by admin Thursday, 28 October 2010 06:26
Osama bin Laden said France’s ban on Islamic full-face veils for women, like the niqab or the burqa, was unjust, and justified Al Qaeda attacks on French soldiers in Afghanistan.
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Osama bin Laden, who has long criticized America in his fiery speeches, is turning his attention to France. In a new audio recording purported to be from the Al Qaeda leader, Mr. Bin Laden threatens French citizens with kidnappings and death, warns France to pull its troops out of Afghanistan, and chastises the nation for banning the full-face Islamic veil for women.
“The equation is very clear and simple: as you kill, you will be killed; as you take others hostages, you will be taken hostages; as you waste our security we will… waste your security,” Bin Laden said in a two-minute recording broadcast Wednesday by Al Jazeera.
It comes less than two weeks after Saudi Arabia warned France that the Yemen-based branch of Al Qaeda was planning an attack, leading France to increase its warning level of a possible terrorist attack to the second-highest level. That warning followed bomb scares that led to the Eiffel tower being evacuated twice in September, and threats against the city’s metro system.
Wants troops out, burqa un-banned
Al Jazeera reports that in the audio recording, Bin Laden says the kidnapping of five French nationals in Niger last month was the result of French injustices against Muslims. That kidnapping has been claimed by an allied group in North Africa, called Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
The Al Qaeda leader also criticized the Afghanistan war and said that Al Qaeda will kidnap French citizens if France does not withdraw from Afghanistan.
He also said France’s ban of Islamic full-face veils for women, like the niqab or the burqa, was unjust. France’s law is due to take effect in April.
The French Foreign Ministry said today that the tape appears real. Its “authenticity can be considered established based on initial verifications,” it said in a statement, according to the Associated Press.
France may begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan next year, reports Agence France-Presse. But French Defense Minister Herve Morin said withdrawal plans are part of a NATO timeline, and have nothing to do the Bin Laden tape. France has about 3,500 soldiers in Afghanistan and 50 have died there since 2001.
According to France 24, the recording is the first time the Al Qaeda leader has specifically threatened the French. An expert on North African terrorist groups told the news channel that the message shows close coordination between Al Qaeda’s North Africa branch and its “headquarters” in Afghanistan and Pakistan. CNN recently reported that, according to a top NATO official, the Al Qaeda leader is living comfortably in a house in northwest Pakistan.
Bin Laden’s waning influence
Despite attempts to influence the Arab and Muslim public with his messages, Bin Laden’s relevance may be waning. He released two audio recordings in January that attempted to broaden Al Qaeda’s appeal, but The Christian Science Monitor reported that he was hardly heard beyond his small circle of supporters.
Bin Laden is arguably irrelevant when it comes to his ability to inspire the overthrow of a government like Saudi Arabia’s, let alone America’s. The deep concerns, nine years ago, that the propaganda of his deeds was going to raise legions in support for a global Islamic emirate have since been laid to rest.
“What everyone is really focused on right now is AQAP [in Yemen and Saudi Arabia], and some people say it shows Al Qaeda is really dangerous and the people who said they were ‘irrelevant’ are wrong,” says Marc Lynch, a political science professor at George Washington University who studies the Arab world. “But that’s a misunderstanding. What I’ve been saying is that Al Qaeda, as a political force in the mainstream Arab world, is way down. They’re seen as marginal, irrelevant, not attractive anymore.”
After Bin Laden released another recording in March, the Monitor’s Dan Murphy reported that “as the years have gone by without his threats backed up by solid action – no successful attack has been carried out by his group on US soil since 2001 – his comments have increasingly been treated as empty.”
France in turmoil as nationwide strike over pension reform stretches on – Washington Post
Last Updated on Thursday, 21 October 2010 02:23 Written by admin Thursday, 21 October 2010 02:23
PARIS – Unions vowed that their striking workers would keep disrupting rail and road transportation. Teenagers marched through the streets and pledged to go on boycotting their schools. The government, trying to appear unfazed, urged Parliament to ignore the chaos and speed up the vote on a bitterly contested pension reform.
France remained stuck Thursday in what has become a major test of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservative presidency – the turmoil caused by a nationwide strike and protest movement that has maintained its momentum well into a second month.
Sarkozy’s aides predicted the unrest would soon peter out, particularly as a 10-day school break begins this weekend. Given the government’s majority in both houses of Parliament, they added, final passage of the reform law is assured early next week, in any case. Nevertheless, the major labor unions scheduled two more nationwide strikes and demonstrations, for Oct. 28 and Nov. 6, voicing the hope that by pressing on with the campaign they could force Sarkozy to pull back the bill and start over.
The immediate dispute was over Sarkozy’s decision to raise the retirement age, from 60 to 62, in an effort to balance a social security budget that pushes deeper into the red every year. There was no other choice, Sarkozy and his ministers explained, if the retirement system is to retain adequate resources to serve the country’s aging population.
The change would still leave France with one of the world’s most generous pension programs and a retirement age well below those of its European neighbors. But union leaders, backed by the opposition Socialist Party and a growing army of student protesters, object that under Sarkozy’s reform, low-income workers would sacrifice more than their share; they suggest a capital gains tax would be a better place to look for the additional funds.
The argument also reflects a broader discontent with Sarkozy and his often blunt-edged tactics among union activists and their sympathizers. Not only is the pension reform proposal unfair, they say, it was handed down without adequate consultations with unions and opposition groups.
“End the disdain,” demanded a student banner in one of Thursday’s marches.
Most of all, though, protesters have denounced the reform as a first slice by conservatives into a lavishly liberal social protection system that has been in place here since World War II, with health-care provisions, vacation guarantees, working hours and public schools that are the envy of many other countries.
During a visit Thursday to a cookware factory in Bonneval, 60 miles southwest of Paris, Sarkozy portrayed his legislation not as an effort to wreck that system, but as a bid to keep the pension fund from eventual bankruptcy. He lashed out at the strikers, who he said refuse to accept reality, singling out in particular the dockers, refinery workers and truck drivers who have disrupted gasoline distribution and led to pump closures at about 2,800 service stations.
“They don’t have the right to make hostages out of people who are not involved,” he told the gathered workers.
In an apparent effort to discredit the protesters, Sarkozy denounced the small numbers of students and other young demonstrators who have vandalized stores, overturned cars and clashed with riot police in Lyon and the Paris suburb of Nanterre. “It is not the vandals who have the final say in a democracy,” he declared.
Meanwhile, about 15,000 students marched again through the Left Bank in Paris, decrying the president’s refusal to budge. Other student marches were reported in Poitiers, Nantes, Bordeaux, Lille and Montpellier. The Education Ministry said 312 secondary schools out of 4,300 were again disrupted by students trying to prevent their classmates from entering.
“This is nowhere near over,” said Victor Grezes, secretary of the National Lycee Union, on the margin of the Paris march.
In another indication that the troubles with French youth were not over – a vexing one for some protesters – Lady Gaga’s production company announced the no-niceties rock singer was postponing her Friday and Saturday evening concerts in Paris because there would be no guarantee trucks could get into the stadium with her sound equipment.
Most of the student marches were peaceful, although a few young protesters again threw bricks through windows in Lyon. Police have questioned more than 200 youths since violence erupted in Lyon and several other cities earlier this week.
Only a dozen universities, out of 83, were seriously crippled by the protests, the Education Ministry said, despite calls from several secondary student groups to pick up the slack next week when secondary schools are on vacation.