France: the secular seat of Europe that has lost so many to radical Islam

Source: The Guardian

Months after the deadly Islamic State and al-Qaida-inspired attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which left 17 people dead in Paris in January, France has fallen victim to another jihadi onslaught of even more horrifying proportions.

On Saturday, the French president, François Hollande, pointed the finger of blame squarely at Isis and labelled its attacks an ‘act of war’ – plotted and organised abroad, but executed, brutally, at home. In turn, came a claim of responsibility from Isis vowing France would “continue to smell the odour of death” as long as it continued its policies in the Middle East.

The gunmen and suicide bombers have not yet been publicly identified, but Hollande admitted they had had help from inside France. If some or all turn out to be French citizens, it is likely to spotlight the government’s struggles to tackle radicalisation among its Muslim minority.

According to most estimates, France has lost more people to militantIslam than any other country in Europe: a report by the French senate in April concluded that at least 1,430 of the 3,000-plus known European jihadis who had then travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight for Isis were French.

The AFP news agency reported earlier this year that French intelligence services were monitoring another 1,570 people who authorities believed had some kind of connection to Syrian networks, while up to 7,000 more were considered at riskof heading down the same path.

Speaking on Friday night, Hollande said: “We know where these attacks come from,” without naming any individual group. “There are indeed good reasons to be afraid.”

More than 150 French radicals are serving prison sentences in France. But more alarming for the country’s hard-pressed security services is the fact that at least 200 French jihadis who have spent time in territory held by Isis are known to have since returned to the country.

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Categories: Europe, France

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