Since France’s military intervention in Mali in 2013 put an end to an offensive by Islamic extremists occupying the north of the country, and despite the subsequent UN peacekeeping mission to help stabilize the former French colony, it remains blighted by insecurity. Amid the continuing tensions, the government stands accused of a strategy of clemency towards senior jihadists who led a reign of terror during their occupation of the north. The vast majority of them have been allowed to escape justice, while the few who were placed in jail have been discretely freed, apparently in prisoner exchange deals. Rémi Carayol reports.
France's continued propping up of Chadian President Idriss Déby, a repressive autocrat, in whose country French troops are based for their counter-jihadist mission in the Sahel, appears to some like a return to the didgy old practices of the Françafrique system, opines The Economist.
Interior minister reported as saying fighters of French origin could be repatriated from Syria as US forces withdraw from that country.
Following the military rout of the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria and Iraq, large numbers of French jihadists were forecast to return home. But in fact, those who have made the journey back represent relatively few of the estimated 700 who joined the ranks of IS in the Middle East. Since 2016, just 64 men and women jihadists have returned – and only seven so far this year. One principal reason is the logistical difficulties for those fleeing the zone and the high fees demanded by people smugglers. But the situation presents a potential security threat in that those who escape by their own means can become invisible to intelligence services. Matthieu Suc reports.
The first round of presidential elections was held last Sunday in Mali, the former French colony in West Africa which has become a key centre of the battle, led by France, against jihadist groups operating in the Sahel. Outgoing president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, 73, hoping for re-election, is roundly attacked by his rivals for having failed to bring security to the country, despite France’s military intervention against jihadists in 2013 and the continued presence of thousands of UN peacekeepers. In this analysis of the enduring instability in Mali, Rémi Carayol details how it was fuelled by the toppling of the Gaddafi regime in Libya.
A confidential French justice ministry report, revealed by daily Le Monde, based on a study of court cases involving women returning to France from Syria where they had joined the ranks of the Islamic State group, has found that a majority held active roles within the organisation, and that only one third of those who joined the jihadists did so accompanying their families.
In the wake of the military defeats of the Islamic State group in the Middle East, a total of about 100 French nationals, including jihadist fighters, women and children, are now detained in Iraq and in Kurd-controlled territory in Syria. Their situation represents a dilemma for the French government, which is tempted to leave them in the hands of their captors and their justice systems, but which is under pressure from lawyers acting for their families who argue that to do so is unlawful and inhumane. Michel Deléan and Matthieu Suc report on the debate, and hear the arguments, which include security concerns, for and against their return.
France is monitoring 12,000 people for signs of 'radicalisation of a terrorist nature' and has announced a new strategy to tackle the problem.
The Islamic State terrorist organisation has been quietly preparing for the loss of its self-styled Caliphate for several months. France's security services now fear that its fighters might be moved to other areas of jihadist conflict or into Europe. In particular they have have raised concerns over the role of the terrorist's mysterious 'Emigration and Logistics Committee' based in Turkey, the Lebanon and Jordan, amid fears it may be used to send French and other European jihadists back to their country of origin. Matthieu Suc reports.
Two former executives at giant French cement manufacturers Lafarge and the head of its security – a former election candidate for Marine Le Pen's far-right Front National – have been formally placed under investigation for alleged “financing of terrorism”. It follows an investigation by French prosecutors into links between the French group – now merged with a Swiss firm – and jihadist groups such as Islamic State. In 2013 and 2014 the cement group maintained its activities in zones in Syria which were at the time controlled by IS and other armed factions. Fabrice Arfi, Michel Deléan and Julien Antoine report.
This third Mediapart investigation into the workings of the Islamic State group’s secretive “Amniyat” branch – in effect its intelligence and foreign operations unit –details the often quite sophisticated, and sometimes very amateurish, methods it employs. Here Matthieu Suc charts the development of the IS terrorist operations against European countries, its preparations for the massacres of civilians in Paris and Brussels, and the reconnaissance it carried out for attacks in the Netherlands and in Britain.
Interior minister Gérard Collomb says all the militants back from war zones in Iraq and Syria are subject to investigation by public prosecutors.
French interior minister was among mourners for Normandy priest who had his throat cut when two jihadists stormed his church during Mass.
Belgian police alerted French colleagues that Islamic State jihadists have left Syria with a set of targets to attack in Belgium and France.