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Country Reports on Terrorism 2010 - France

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 18 August 2011
Cite as United States Department of State, Country Reports on Terrorism 2010 - France, 18 August 2011, available at: [accessed 23 October 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Overview: Several public announcements by al-Qa'ida (AQ) and other groups reiterated that French interests remained key targets. In September, concerns about the threat of al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) prompted the Government of France to raise the color-coded alert system to the second highest security posture. Several false alerts occurred in the latter part of 2010 resulting in evacuations of the Eiffel Tower (on two occasions), two Paris train stations, an airport in Martinique, and the Notre Dame de Lourdes shrine. The French have responded by becoming more involved in the Sahel and the Maghreb, working closely with the United States to build the capacity of African nations to counter terrorist groups in Africa before they can attack in France itself. French authorities made multiple arrests throughout the year and claimed to have prevented two planned attacks in 2010. France has shown both a robust capability to track and prevent internal threats as well as a readiness to engage in regional dialogue, training, and capacity building to minimize the risk of terrorist events.

2010 Terrorist Incidents: Traditionally, local Corsican separatists, Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) members, and ultra-left anarchist factions have been responsible for the majority of attacks and arrests classified as terrorism in France. In 2010, there were no attacks related to the ultra left or violent extremists on French soil; there were however more than 80 persons arrested in cases related to terrorism.

Corsica: While there were a larger number of attacks by Corsican separatists in 2010 than in 2009, there were fewer fatal attacks by Corsican separatists in 2010.

ETA: Arrests and weapons seizures in 2010, combined with the cumulative effect of years of joint French-Spanish counterterrorism operations, effectively decapitated ETA's leadership and neutralized its capacity to sustain a prolonged operational campaign.

Kidnapping: Kidnapping for ransom has become a major concern for the French government. In 2010, 10 French citizens were taken hostage by AQ affiliates. AQIM claimed responsibility for eight hostages, five were taken on September 16 in Niger and three were taken on September 22 in Nigeria. The Taliban claimed responsibility for two hostages taken in Kabul on November 3. In addition, one French intelligence officer who was kidnapped in 2009 in Somalia remained in captivity. French hostage Michel Germaneau was killed in July by AQIM.

Legislation and Law Enforcement: In the first half of the year, 62 suspected ETA members were arrested in France. In February, police arrested the group's top leader in France in a joint Spanish-French pre-dawn raid. In March, the shooting of a French police officer near Paris during a bungled getaway was ETA's last fatal attack and believed to be the first murder of a French police officer by that organization. In April 2009, the French government formed a joint security committee with Spain to fight terrorism and drug trafficking. The group, which is an expansion of existing police cooperation targeted at ETA, created a joint general staff headquarters on security to lead the fight on terrorism. Less than 18 months later on September 5, ETA called for a halt to all armed attacks and is actively seeking talks with the Spanish government.

The following high profile arrests took place in 2010:

  • On February 28, French police arrested Ibon Gogeaskoetxea Arronategui, suspected military chief of ETA.

  • On October 3, a French citizen suspected of being an AQ operative was arrested in Naples, Italy for possession of bomb making materials.

  • On October 5, 12 individuals were arrested in the South of France and accused of running a foreign fighter pipeline to Afghanistan.

  • On November 26, a 27-year-old French citizen was arrested and prosecuted under suspicion of having been involved in a terrorist cell. He is accused of participating in terrorist activities in the Afghan/Pakistan border region.

Countering Terrorist Finance: The French government has a comprehensive anti-money laundering/counterterrorist financing (AML/CTF) regime and is an active partner in international efforts to control money laundering and terrorist financing, including its prominent role as a founding member of the Financial Action Task Force. France actively participated in UN 1267 and 1373 Committee sessions. France maintains the ability to designate individuals or entities under French domestic authorities in addition to those designated by EU regulations.

Regional and International Cooperation: France was actively engaged with the UNSC Counterterrorism Committee, the G8's Counterterrorism Action Group, the UNSCR 1267 Sanctions Committee (for the Taliban and AQ), and the European Council's Antiterrorism Strategy action plan. The French government undertook counterterrorism operations with other countries including the UK, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and Spain.

Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism: France continued implementing programs to address radicalization and extremism using social and economic incentives to reduce the susceptibility of at-risk populations. Of particular note, the French government went to great efforts to train police personnel to be aware of the signs of radicalization. In 2010, the French government began to consider ways to address radicalization through after school programs for at-risk youth, greater access to higher education, and increased economic mobility. In addition, the French government offered imams a professional training program run by mainstream Muslim leaders.

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