U.S. Department of State Country Reports on Terrorism 2006 - France

France pursued aggressive counterterrorism measures, including dismantling terror networks on its territory, notably those assisting in the recruitment or financing of terrorists to Iraq. In total, French authorities arrested 317 people in connection with terrorism: 140 for links to Islamic terrorism,150 for attacks in Corsica, and 27 with ties to Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA). Since 2002, French police have arrested 1,422 persons on terrorism related charges.

In September, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) announced its merger with al-Qaida, changed its name to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and declared France its number one target. Several high profile events – including the local publication of the Danish Mohammed cartoon pictorials, heated debate on the interdiction of the veil in French public institutions, and the presence of French troops in Afghanistan and Lebanon – were cited by various French authorities as factors manipulated by Islamic extremists to incite violence.

In May, 29 people were detained in France for suspected association with Iraq-related terror networks. In September, officials noted that at least nine terrorists, whose journey to Iraq began in France were killed, two were incarcerated, and another twelve-to-fifteen were likely still engaged in combat against Coalition Forces. Increasing Islamic radicalization in the prison system also continued to worry French officials.

On January 23, the French government adopted new counterterrorism legislation that considerably strengthened police powers in criminal law and codified some current practices. Preliminary detention for terrorism suspects was extended from a maximum of four to up to six days. Current legislation allowed the state to thereafter place suspects in pre-trial detention for up to four years when the evidence is strong or when they present an imminent threat. The law gave the government additional powers for the freezing of assets, video and telephone surveillance, allowed increased monitoring of public transport records, and granted broader powers of official access to connection data held by internet cafes and to various personal data records. Sentences for convicted terrorists were increased from 20 to 30 years for leading or organizing an attack, and from ten to twenty years for assisting a terrorist organization or operation. The new law also reinforced existing legislation that allowed for the revocation of French nationality and eventual expulsion if the terrorist became a citizen through naturalization within the preceding 15 years.

The French government published its White Paper on terrorism on March 7. The paper, a publicly available document, sets out the government's overall policy efforts to combat terrorism. It included attack scenarios, threat analyses, and technical as well as political responses to terrorism.

France continued its active engagement with the United Nation's Security Council (UNSC) Counterterrorism Committee (CTC), the G8's Counterterrorism Action Group (CTAG), the UN's 1267 Sanctions Committee (for the Taliban and al-Qaida), and the European Council's Anti-Terrorism Strategy action plan. In response to increasing calls, especially in some European and NAM delegations, that the process of listing and delisting of terrorist groups and entities under UNSCR 1267 lacked transparency, the United States and France co-sponsored UNSCR 1730, which made improvements in the process. The resolution was adopted in December. France is a founding member of the joint U.S./Russia Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism that was inaugurated in October. France is a member and contributor to both the Proliferation and Container Security Initiatives. The U.S. and France maintained regular bilateral counterterrorism consultations.

On the military front, French Special Forces participated in coalition operations in Afghanistan as part of OEF. France was also a key participant in Coalition Task Force (CTF) 150, a multinational naval force that patrols the Red Sea and Gulf of Yemen to interdict the movement of suspected terrorists between Afghanistan, the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa. It has twice commanded the Task Force. France's overall contributions in Afghanistan increased.

French police cooperated closely with Spanish authorities in the Basque region. Several arms caches were discovered in France, and a number of arrests of Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) suspects were made throughout the year. Several ETA members were extradited to Spain. One attack, allegedly claimed by Ipparetarek (a defunct French Basque nationalist group) or an Ipparetarek sympathizer, occurred in France on June 11 against the Hotel Ostap. There were no injuries and only minimal damage.

France continued to develop competencies and capabilities of TRACFIN, the Ministry of Finance's terrorism financing coordination and investigation unit. Within the European Union, France played an active role in the Clearinghouse, the EU process for designation of terrorist organizations. France did not designate HAMAS-affiliated charities, such as the French based Comite de Bienfaisance et Secours aux Palestiniens (Committee for the Well-Being and Assistance to Palestinians), arguing that it had no proven links to terrorism. France also opposed EU designation of Lebanese Hizballah as a terrorist organization, although it supported Hizballah's eventual disarmament, maintaining that disarmament would result in Hizballah's gradual integration into Lebanese politics.

Attacks on the French island of Corsica were up approximately 38 percent in 2006, totaling over 225. A majority of these attacks were claimed by the National Front for the Liberation of Corsica-Combatants Union, or by the National Front for the Liberation of Corsica of October 22. Three terrorists were killed during the year by accident while attempting to carry out attacks. The government had a widespread police presence in the region and arrested dozens of people throughout the year in connection with various attacks. The groups tended to target secondary residences, and avoided serious damage or casualties. Separatist groups appeared to have largely given up their political battle for independence but continued to wage an intimidation campaign aimed at foreigners or mainland French citizens interested in permanent residence or secondary homes on the small island.

Key judicial proceedings on Islamic terrorism related crimes included:

  • On June 13, 25 Islamic militants tied to a Chechen extremist network that allegedly planned to bomb a commercial center in Paris and the Eiffel Tower were sentenced. Several members of the group, including Menad Benchellali and Merouane Benhamed, received the maximum sentence of ten years.1
  • Five of six former Guantanamo detainees expelled to France in 2004 and 2005 were no longer in detention (they were initially detained for many months after their arrival in

France). One, Brahim Yadel, remained in custody for violating the terms of his conditional release. All six former detainees faced further charges in France for terrorist conspiracy. In September the trial was halted when a judge ordered further investigations into the role of alleged visits of French intelligence authorities to Guantanamo.

  • On October 26, Karim Mehdi, a Moroccan national, was sentenced to nine years for terrorism related activities. Mehdi is alleged to have ties with September 11 terrorists (Ramzi bin al Shaibah and Ziad Jarrah) and is suspected of planning an attack on the island of Reunion in 2003. Mehdi will be deported following his sentence and not allowed in France for a minimum of six years.
  • On March 29, Rachid Ramda, who was extradited to France from the U.K. in December 2005 after ten years in detention, was sentenced to ten years for his role in the 1995 Paris subway and train attacks.
  • On November 12, France's chief counterterrorism judge, Jean-Louis Bruguiere, sent to the Paris Court of Assises the cases of three suspects allegedly connected to the 2002 Djerba, Tunisia attacks. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), Christian Ganczarski, and Walid Nawar are suspected of assisting convicted terrorist Belgacem Nawar in the Djerba AQ attacks whose victims included two French citizens. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed remained in U.S. custody at Guantanamo.
  • In late November, three individuals were detained in France after being expelled from Syria; they were suspected of attempting to transit through Syria to join insurgents fighting against Coalition Forces in Iraq. Another nine individuals were deported from Egypt in mid-December under similar charges. All were released after a brief period of detention.
  • On July 19, Adel Tebourski, a Tunisian and French dual-national citizen, who was arrested in 2001 and sentenced in 2005 for his contribution to the September 9, 2001 assassination of Afghan War Chief Ahmad Shah Massood, was stripped of his French nationality by decree and expelled to Tunisia on August 7.
  • Karim Bourti, a French AQIM/GSPC supporter, was also stripped of his citizenship in May.
  • Since May 2005, the Government of France revoked the security clearances of 72 individuals working in private companies at Charles de Gaulle international airport. The majority of those were announced in early November. A few of those concerned brought legal action against the government and were subsequently reinstated. The government claimed that the individuals, while not terrorists, posed a security risk to the airport because background checks showed they had sympathies with Islamic extremists.

1 The French government continued its policy of expelling non-French citizens engaged in terrorist activities or speech that promoted hate or incited violence. Among those ordered expelled from France were at least 20 imams from Algeria, Bangladesh, Morocco, and Pakistan.


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