France faces Islamist threat, warns Jewish group

 

FRANCE HAS not fully taken stock of the threat it faces from radical Islamism, a leading Jewish figure warned as police operations continued against a gang suspected of anti-Semitic attacks.

The arrest of a man in Torcy, near Paris, brought to 12 the number of people detained by police in raids against a network suspected of having thrown a grenade at a kosher supermarket last month. A 33-year-old man was shot dead by police during one of the raids, in Strasbourg on Saturday.

Police said they recovered lists of Jewish targets during the simultaneous operations in Paris, Strasbourg, Nice and Cannes, adding to fears in France’s Jewish community – the largest in Europe – after a series of apparently anti-Semitic incidents in recent weeks.

Death threats were made against the chief rabbi of Lyon; three young Jewish men were attacked with a hammer and iron bars; and, on Saturday night, blank bullets were fired from a car at a synagogue in the Paris suburb of Argenteuil while worshippers were inside.

The head of Jewish umbrella group CRIF, Richard Prasquier, likened radical Islamism to Nazism and said France had to take stock of the threat.

“Radical Islam compares its enemies to animals . . . In the same way, the Nazis compared Jews to bacteria, to rats, to animals,” he said.

The apparent dismantling of an Islamist network which comprised a number of young French converts with records of delinquency has prompted debate over radicalisation in the country’s prisons.

Some of the individuals had a profile similar to that of Mohamed Merah, the 23-year-old petty criminal from Toulouse, who shot dead three Jewish children, a rabbi and three soldiers before being shot dead by police in March.

“In the prisons, we need imams, French imams, trained imams, so that there are not self-proclaimed imams passing on these doctrines of hate,” said interior minister Manuel Valls.

The 33-year-old man shot dead by police in Strasbourg is alleged by the authorities to have been one of two men who threw a grenade into a kosher supermarket in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles on September 19th. One person was wounded in that attack.

Mr Valls said the arrested individuals belonged to “a dangerous network that had to be neutralised”.

He said the gang had identified additional targets and further arrests could follow.

“We know there are several dozen, indeed several hundred, individuals who are capable of organising themselves like the group that has just been dismantled,” he added.

Searches carried out as part of the same investigation yielded €27,000 in cash as well as weapons, Islamist literature and a list of Jewish organisations in the Paris region, police said.

After meeting representatives of France’s Jewish and Muslim communities at the weekend, President François Hollande pledged to increase security at synagogues and enact tougher anti-terrorism laws. He said a new Bill would allow police to arrest people suspected of terrorism-related activities beyond France’s borders, and to access the emails or internet communications of potential terrorists.