France faces terrorist attacks on the scale of September 11, 2001, according to former anti-terrorist magistrate, Marc Trévidic. “The threat is at the highest level it has ever been.” Trévidic told the French weekly, Paris Match. “We are no longer capable of stopping a terrorist attack.”
For the past week, cops, spies and magistrates have been coming out of the woodwork to warn the French: “Get ready for the worst terrorist attack since 9/11.” Why they are doing it now is not clear but what they see coming is.
The counter-terrorist officials say French nationals fighting with the Islamists in Syria, Libya or Yemen, will come back and use their training for a sustained terror campaign within the country. France estimates some 2,000 of their Muslim nationals are fighting in different battlefields in the Middle East and hundreds have returned. “The number of Jihadist veterans is growing every day,” said Yves Trotignon who was once a member of the DGSE, the French spy service. “Determined guys ready to die, who studied their target and are solid from an operational point of view. They can do a lot of damage.”
“The day when we fall on two good veterans of the fighting in Syria, we are in trouble.” an un-named anti-terrorist official told the French news agency, AFP. He said until now, they have been lucky. The Jihadist who wanted to attack a train in August jammed his kalashnikov; another gunman accidentally shot himself in the leg before he could attack a church last April, but not before he killed a 24-year-old woman.
European police have been effective. Although we do not know how many arrests they have made, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, put the number in the dozens. In September 2010, they even shut down the Eifel tower in fear of simultaneous attacks in Paris, London and Berlin. The fact that there have been few attacks is proof of police efficiency but, now we are told, they can no longer cope.
Although Brussels denies there is any proof of infiltration, the British tabloid Express, among many others, claims 4,000 jihadists have entered Europe with the flow of migrants. That number may just be ‘fear mongering’ but top US officials have also voiced concern killers are arriving with the massive and uncontrolled tide of people.
There are certainly enough potential domestic recruits. Scores were arrested in France after last January’s terror attacks in Paris for expressing sympathy for the three gunmen who killed 17 people. (A French law makes “apology for terrorism” a crime punishable by prison.)
“What we’ve had until now is just kindergarten stuff,” the French news agency, AFP, quoted one anti-terrorist official as saying. The magistrate, Trévidic, agrees attacks until now are nothing compared to what is to come. Last year, he says he dismantled a ring of domestic “Jihadists who wanted to create an autonomous commando of ten ‘Merah’ to operate simultaneously throughout the territory.” He was referring to Mohamed Merah, the gunman who killed seven French soldiers and Jews and injured five in Toulouse in March 2012.
French anti-terrorist services also fear a copy of the September 2013 attack on a Nairobi, Kenya, shopping mall which left 68 people dead after a four day siege. “Faced with this (threat),” former spy and terrorist expert Trotignon said, “we have to admit, our services are overwhelmed.” Another anonymous anti-terrorist official told the free daily 20 Minutes that “until now we have been dealing with house painters. What we really fear are the professionals who will follow.”
There may be as many as six million Muslims in France. Nobody knows how many for sure. It would only take a hundred, or five percent of those French nationals now fighting in the Middle East, to create a situation in the country which could quickly degenerate into civil unrest, pitting large sections of society against France’s Muslim population. It would not be surprizing, in that case, to see the police carry out ‘Algerian War’ type measures in the Arab housing projects, the banleiues, to assure security.
The hyperbolic clamor of the past week does not bode well. To quote the magistrate, Marc Trévidic: “The worst is before us.”