Cablegate: France: 2004 Annual Terrorism Report

Published: Thu 16 Dec 2004 08:08 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
REF: STATE 245841
1. (U) Post encloses the 2004 annual terrorism report for
France. Per reftel, Word versions will be e-mailed to John
Kincannon and Kiersten McCutchan at S/CT. Post POC is
Political Officer Peter Kujawinski, x.2575.
France ) 2004
In 2004, France made progress in a number of areas that
enhanced its already robust counter-terrorism capability.
The Perben II law entered into force on October 1, ensuring
domestic implementation of the European Arrest Warrant and
expanding the tools police, security and judiciary officials
can use to combat terrorism. In April, French authorities
discovered and shut down a network of the Moroccan Islamic
Combatant Group that was considered to be extremely
dangerous. In July, it took custody of four former detainees
at Guantanamo Bay and charged them with terrorist conspiracy.
All four of the detainees remain in pretrial detention and
trials are expected to begin in 2005. In October, French and
Spanish authorities struck a significant blow to ETA
terrorism in their arrest in France of two top ETA leaders
and in the seizure of significant arms and materials caches.
With these and a number of other high profile arrests and
convictions in 2004, it is clear that France continues its
aggressive and effective anti-terrorist policies. Despite
robust U.S.-French cooperation on counter-terrorism, French
officials continue to differ with the U.S. on the impact of
Operation Iraqi Freedom on international terrorism, with
French officials suggesting that Iraq,s liberation has made
the world less safe and increased international terrorism.
In 2004, four French nationals were identified as having been
killed while fighting Coalition and Iraqi forces in Iraq.
France continues to be an active and engaged participant in
the international war against terrorism. On the military
front, its special forces participate in counter-terrorist
operations in Afghanistan and a French admiral commands Task
Force 150, a multinational naval force that patrols the Red
Sea and the Persian Gulf to interdict the movement of
suspected terrorists from Afghanistan to the Arabian
Peninsula. At the political and diplomatic level, France
continues its engagement within the UN,s Counter-Terrorism
Committee and the G-8,s Counter-Terrorism Action Group.
France is a party to all 12 international conventions and
protocols relating to terrorism.
In 2004, France expanded its cooperation in international
judicial cooperation. With the entry into force of the
Perben II law, France incorporated into its domestic
legislation the provisions of the European Arrest Warrant and
strengthened its already extensive judicial and police powers
to combat terrorism. For example, the law outlaws websites
that post bomb-making instructions. In September, police
shut down three such websites and arrested a computer science
student for building one of them. In addition, France signed
with the United States on September 2 two new agreements that
updated a bilateral extradition treaty and improved overall
counter-terrorism cooperation. France and the Netherlands
were among the first European countries to sign such
agreements with the United States.
France and the United States continue to cooperate closely on
border security issues, including airplane safety and the
Container Security Initiative. Possible threats to airplane
flights during the 2003-2004 holiday season were investigated
jointly by US and French authorities. French police and
security services have been very responsive to US requests.
In addition, France is active internationally in proposing
bioterrorism safeguards and nuclear facility safeguards. In
March, the Paris Prefecture of Police announced the formation
of a specialized, 90-person firefighting unit that would
focus on combating nuclear, radiological, biological and
chemical terrorist attacks. Also, in May, the French
government simulated a bomb attack on the Paris metro to test
the ability of emergency services to respond.
On terrorism financing, France continues to develop the
competencies and capabilities of TRACFIN, the Ministry of
Finance,s terrorism financing coordination and investigation
unit. TRACFIN has expanded the number of economic sectors it
monitors within the French economy, with a particular
emphasis on institutions, non-governmental organizations and
small enterprises suspected of having ties to Islamic
terrorism. At the level of the European Union, France plays
an active role in the Clearinghouse, the Union,s terrorism
financing coordination body. France has designated as
terrorist groups those that appear on the EU list of
terrorist organizations. As of yet, it has not designated
Hamas-affiliated charities, arguing that they have no links
to terrorism. It also, along with its EU partners, has not
designated Lebanese Hizballah as a terrorist organization.
French authorities consistently condemn terrorist acts and
have made no public statements in support of a
terrorist-supporting country on a terrorism issue.
Nevertheless, France, along with its EU partners, retains
diplomatic relations with all of the governments designated
as state sponsors of terrorism, with the exception of North
Korea. In 2004 it cosponsored with the United States UN
Security Council Resolution 1559, which targeted Syrian
domination of Lebanon and called for dismantlement of armed
groups and militias in Lebanon and extension of Lebanese
government control throughout Lebanese territory, to include
areas under the de facto control of Hizballah.
France is perhaps best known for its seasoned and aggressive
counter-terrorism police forces and judiciary. Within the
Ministry of Interior, the DST (internal security service), RG
(police intelligence), DNAT (counter-terrorism brigade) and
Brigade Criminelle (criminal investigations) all play
important roles in French counter-terrorism work. In 2004,
as part of a move to improve cooperation among France,s
security services, a new terrorism coordination cell was
created that will be based in the headquarters of the DGSE,
France,s external intelligence service and part of the
Ministry of Defense. Personnel from the RG and the DST will
be part of the coordination unit. This new initiative adds
another coordination body to an already crowded field. Other
coordination mechanisms include UCLAT (a counter-terrorism
coordination unit with the Ministry of Interior), the SGDN
(attached to the office of the Prime Minister), the
Intelligence Council and the Council for Internal Security
(attached to the office of the President.) There is
virtually no legislative oversight of intelligence and
security agencies.
Terrorism investigations that may lead to criminal charges
are handled by the counter-terrorism section of the Paris
Prosecutor,s office. Investigative judges, who in the
French system combine prosecutorial and judicial powers,
concentrate on Islamic/international terrorism, Basque/ETA
terrorism and terrorism linked to Corsican separatist groups.
Their mandate is extensive, and includes terrorist acts on
French soil and acts abroad that affect French citizens.
Their powers are substantial and they are given wide freedom
to investigate. They cooperate closely with French police
and security services.
Under French law, terrorism suspects may be detained for up
to 96 hours before charges are filed. In addition, suspects
can be held for up to three and a half years in pretrial
detention while the investigation against them continues.
There is general public acceptance of these measures.
Olivier Roy, a French terrorism expert, told the Associated
Press on December 7 that ,s a tradition in France of
a strong state and people want to have a strong state.8
Barring the revelation of serious abuses, there is little
indication that French citizens would want to decrease the
extensive powers given to French investigating judges, police
and security services.
French police and intelligence services within the Interior
Ministry have extensive powers of surveillance, monitoring
and administrative detention. These powers were enhanced
with the March 9 passage of Perben II (with entry into force
on October 1) and include expanded detention (up to four days
before charges must be brought), more authority for police to
go undercover, warrants for searches at night, more leeway in
granting document searches, and increased authority to
wiretap. These expanded powers are to be used only in cases
that involve investigation of organizations imperil
society,8 such as the mafia, drug traffickers and terrorist
organizations. Even if government authorities are found to
have misused their new powers, any evidence they have found
would still be accepted in court.
Judicial and police investigations following the high-profile
arrests in 2003 of German national Christian Ganczarski and
Moroccan national Karim Mehdi continued in 2004. Ganczarski
and Mehdi, who are suspected of ties to al-Qaida, remain in
pretrial detention in France.
The investigation into the activities of suspected terrorist
Djamel Beghal concluded in late 2004. His trial, as well as
the trials of seven associates, will begin January 3, 2005.
The Beghal network is suspected of planning to commit a
number of terrorist acts, including an attack on the US
Embassy in Paris.
French police and judicial authorities arrested six suspected
members of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM) on
April 5. An investigation into their activities is ongoing.
The six suspects are being held in pretrial detention. The
GICM cell is thought to have provided logistical support to
those who committed the attacks against Madrid trains on
March 11. French authorities also arrested five individuals
in mid-November on charges of stealing one million euros from
a Brinks delivery truck that restocked ATM machines. These
individuals are suspected of having links with the GICM cell.
Judicial and police investigations are also continuing in the
network,8 a loose grouping that is reported to
have links with the Beghal network and the Frankfurt network
(which attempted in 2000 to attack cultural sites in
Strasbourg, including the cathedral). Members of the Chechen
network reportedly were interested in using chemical agents
to commit terrorist attacks. French authorities arrested
Zinnedine Khalid on June 14, one of the suspected members of
the Chechen network. They also suspect that the Chechen
network may have links with a possible Asian network that
included Lionel Dumont, a French citizen in custody who had
lived previously in Japan. The trial of ten suspected
members of the Frankfurt network began in Paris on September
29 and is expected to last three months.
In May, a Paris court convicted two French citizens, Ahmed
Laidouni and David Courtailler, and an Algerian citizen,
Mohamed Baadache, for organizing recruitment networks for
terrorist training camps in Afghanistan. Baadache received
the maximum sentence of 10 years under terrorist conspiracy
laws. Laidouni was given 7 years, while Courtailler was
given two years in jail along with a suspended two-year
Following the July 27 transfer of four French citizens
detained at Guantanamo Bay, French authorities successfully
argued in favor of their pretrial detention while judicial
authorities are preparing cases that charge them with
terrorist conspiracy. These arguments have withstood
multiple appeals by defense lawyers and the detainees remain
in pretrial detention. France has been one of the most
aggressive and proactive countries in prosecuting its
citizens formerly held by the U.S. at Guantanamo.
The French government publicly condemned acts of terrorism
targeting civilians in Iraq on multiple occasions in 2004.
Nevertheless, throughout the year, French government
officials, including President Chirac, continued to assert
publicly that the liberation of Iraq had made the world less
safe and increased international terrorism. These criticisms
reflect broader U.S.-French divergences on Iraq policy in
Four French citizens have been identified in 2004 as killed
while fighting in Iraq. Amidst concerns that radical
Islamists with French citizenship were beginning to enter
Iraq to fight Multinational and Iraqi forces and commit
terrorist acts in Iraq, the Paris Prosecutor,s office opened
an investigation into a possible network of Islamists
recruiting French citizens to fight in Iraq. That
investigation is ongoing.
On October 8, an early morning bomb exploded in front of the
Indonesian Embassy in Paris. No one was killed, although the
bomb caused significant damage. French authorities continue
to investigate the bombing. However, responsibility for the
investigation was transferred to the counter-terrorism
section of the Paris Prosecutor,s office, signifying that
the French government suspects terrorism as a motive.
French and Spanish authorities have jointly made significant
progress in combating Basque separatist groups, including the
ETA. In early October, French police arrested Mikel Albizu
Iriarte and Soledad Iparraguirre, two suspected ETA leaders.
They also arrested at least sixteen other suspects, and
seized money and hundreds of pounds of explosives. In 2004,
the French and Spanish governments have formed two joint
investigative teams, one focusing on al-Qaida-related groups
and the second focusing on Basque separatist groups.
Despite a truce announced in November 2003 by the main
Corsican separatist movements ) the FLNC Union of Combatants
) the island continues to experience low-level terrorist
activities. Examples include the bombing of selected
commercial and symbolic sites, the machine-gunning of a local
gendarmerie post in October, and a rocket attack against
another gendarmerie post in May. No one was killed in these
attacks, most of which occurred at night. According to
French authorities, there have been 76 explosions at police
stations in Corsica over the last three years. French police
arrested in November twelve of 14 suspected members of the
Corsi8 group, which claimed responsibility for
seven recent attacks targeting Corsican residents of north
African ancestry.
At the administrative level, France continued its policy of
expulsions for non-French citizens engaged in what the French
government considered activities that promote hate. In
response to sermons from several Muslim clerics determined to
have threatened public order by calling for jihad, Parliament
passed a law in July stating that a foreigner can be deported
for publicly supporting acts of hatred, discrimination or
violence against any specific person or group of persons.
The highest profile expulsion in 2004 was that of Muslim
prayer leader Abdelkader Bouziane, who was first expelled to
Algeria in April, then returned to France after an
administrative court suspended that ruling. Bouziane, who
had made widely publicized statements condoning wife beating,
was expelled a second time on October 5. In addition, Midhat
Guler, a Turkish mosque leader and accused leader of the
extremist group ,8 was expelled on April 29.
Although expulsions have long been a favorite tool used by
French authorities, in 2004 they gained more prominence.
Interior Minister de Villepin publicly stated he would make
expulsion procedures faster and easier.
In June, following the passage of a law giving new regulatory
powers to the Conseil Superieur d,Audiovisuel (CSA),
France,s FCC-equivalent, the CSA began sanctions proceedings
against al-Manar, a Hezbollah-affiliated satellite television
station, and al-Alam, a satellite television station based in
Iran. The CSA accused both stations of anti-Semitic
programming, propaganda in favor of suicide bombings, and the
diffusion of hate. The subsequent granting of a limited
broadcast license to al-Manar on November 19 was
controversial, and prompted Prime Minister Raffarin to
declare that al-Manar was with French
values.8 After reviewing al-Manar programming after it
received its broadcast license, the CSA again petitioned the
Conseil d,Etat, France,s highest administrative court, to
ban the station. On December 13, the Conseil d,Etat agreed
with the CSA, and ordered al-Manar off French airwaves. In
addition, Raffarin has asked the European Union to weigh in
on the issue of media and their broadcasting
of programs that are incompatible with European values
concerning hate and anti-Semitism. It is clear that for many
inside and outside the government, stations such as al-Manar
and al-Alam pose a direct threat to French values, and in
addition, serve as a rear-guard action fighting the
government,s efforts to disseminate these values.
In February, the French government banned satellite
television station Medya TV from broadcasting in France.
Medya TV is affiliated with PKK/Kongra Gel, which is listed
as a terrorist organization by the European Union.
Worries over the rise of radical Islam in France have
prompted Interior Minister Sarkozy, followed by his
successor, Interior Minister de Villepin, to propose a number
of steps to combat this threat. Some, mentioned earlier,
focus on better coordination between the many French services
that deal with terrorism. Other steps focus on the need to
better integrate France,s minority Muslim population.
Villepin stated December 7 that it was unacceptable that
the 1200 imams who practice in our country, 75 percent are
not French and one-third do not speak our language.8 He
proposed, among other things, the creation of a foundation to
manage money destined for Muslim groups in France and offer
greater transparency and oversight of overseas fundraising
for Muslim institutions in France. According to the Ministry
of Interior, approximately 50 of 1,685 Muslim places of
worship are considered to have ties to radical Islam.
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