France decrees maximum anti-terrorist alert

Four months before the opening of the Paris Olympic Games, France is already at the maximum level of anti-terrorist alert.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
25 March 2024 Monday 04:25
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France decrees maximum anti-terrorist alert

Four months before the opening of the Paris Olympic Games, France is already at the maximum level of anti-terrorist alert. At the end of a meeting of the defense council at the Elysée, chaired by Emmanuel Macron, on Sunday night, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal announced that the country was moving to the highest level, level 1 (“attack emergency”) , of the Vigipirate plan, which since 2015 includes the deployment of thousands of soldiers in sensitive places.

The main reason for the alarm is, obviously, the recent jihadist attack in Moscow. Attal recalled that the Islamic State of Khorasan, which claimed responsibility for the action, has been threatening France for some time and that some attacks in the preparation phase were recently discovered in several European countries, including France.

Macron, who is in French Guiana, a stopover prior to his visit to Brazil, justified the measure, in his first statements as soon as he landed, by the need for “precaution.” The president explained that the alert had been lowered one step on January 15, after the attack against a school in Arras, in the north of the country, last October, forced maximum vigilance.

Several factors have influenced the decision. More than a hundred schools have received threats in recent days after their authors hacked the digital platforms of the educational centers. Some of these threats, launched after the Moscow attack, were signed by the Islamic State and were justified by the desire to “avenge our brothers killed in combat” (in Syria and Iraq). The majority of schools affected are from the Paris region and also from Alsace. The television network CNews, a media outlet very slanted to the right and extreme right, has also received threats.

The threatening messages to schools, which speak of armed actions and explosives, have caused great anguish in families and the educational community. In France this week is school, also Good Friday, since the two weeks of spring school holidays will be in April. Protection, therefore, has been reinforced in educational centers and also in churches before Easter services.

Attal went yesterday to the Saint-Lazare railway station, one of the busiest in the capital, near the opera house, to show his support for the military patrolling the facilities. The head of the Government recalled that since 2017, 45 terrorist attacks have been thwarted, two of them so far this year. In one case, the target was a Catholic religious building.

The concern in France is logical given the proximity of the Olympic Games and taking into account that in recent years it has been the European country hardest hit by Islamist terrorism. The victims have been multiple and very diverse: the editorial office of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, priests and churches, the Bataclan concert hall, cafes, supermarkets, Jewish establishments, random pedestrians and even the Paris police prefecture.

The current situation is especially delicate due to the geopolitical context of the war in Ukraine and the expulsion of French troops from several Sahel countries in recent years. France remains in the position of jihadism and, at the same time, Macron has recently led the toughest position of NATO allies, suggesting that troops should be sent to Ukraine.

Former KGB agent Sergei Jirnov, a refugee in France and a regular television analyst, warned of the risk and speculated that the Russian secret services could use very radicalized exiles from the Russian Caucasus, who would manipulate them like sleeper agents, to push them to terrorist and destabilizing actions. Jirnov recalled that the perpetrators of the brutal murder of two teachers in attacks on French schools were young Caucasians from Chechnya and Ingushetia.