French police have arrested four suspected Islamist militants just outside Paris. The four men are thought to have been recruited by al Qaeda insurgents to fight in Mali.
Authorities have tightened security measures in France, fearing that the country’s intervention against Islamist rebels in Mali may trigger revenge attacks within France itself.
Investigating judge Marc Trevidic, who led the operation to identify al Qaeda recruit planning to fight in northern Mali, said last month that the country needed to increase intelligence sharing and strengthen local policing to deal with a growing threat from Islamic extremists. He has also previously said that the Islamist rebellion in Mali had increased the threat of terrorism in France – the former colonial power which controlled Mali – as French African Muslims were finding a cause in the conflict. His warnings of the terrorist threat to France posed by Islamists in Mali formed part of the argument which convinced the French government to launch their intervention.
Three out of the four men which were arrested on Tuesday are said to be French citizens of Congolese descent, whilse the fourth is thought to have been Malian.
“There is an operation ongoing in the Paris region, conducted by the DCRI (domestic security service), which comes after the arrest of an individual a few months ago on the border between Mali and Niger,” Interior Minister Manuel Valls told BFM TV.
The man he is referring to is a French-Congolese man named Cedric Lobo, who was arrested in Niger while trying to buy a vehicle using a false driver’s license. Lobo was heading towards Timbuktu, where he planned to join al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb to fight against French forces. He has been extradited to France, where he has been charged and is awaiting trial.
Several investigations have been launched into Jihadist groups in France.
“We have to continue dismantling these networks that want to either commit attacks on our soil or take individuals overseas to carry out jihad,” said Valls.
“There is no direct threat, but there are threats on the Internet, on social networks, calling on people to wage war, to attack French interests,” he added.
Security has been tightened at key public buildings across France, but the nation’s security level has remained at red, which indicated ‘probable threats’, and has not been raised to the highest level of scarlet, which indicates ‘definite threats’.