FRANCE

French jihadists carrying out suicide bombings in Syria and Iraq

Aris Messinis, AFP | Fighters from the Islamic State organisation advance near Kobane, Syria, in this file photo from October 2014.

Seven French citizens or residents, including six converts to Islam, died while committing suicide attacks in Iraq and Syria, revealed Prime Minister Manuel Valls Monday as he defended the government's so-called ‘French Patriot Act'.

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“We must pay particular attention to this new phenomenon because of the risk that it will be reproduced on French soil… Our intelligence services have established that seven individuals -- I’m talking about French citizens or residents --have died in suicide attacks in Syria and Iraq,” the prime minster said in front of the National Assembly, in defence of a controversial surveillance law that would allow security services to monitor suspicious activities without a court warrant.

"The youngest [suicide bomber] was only 20 years old… Did Daech [the Islamic State organisation] make a deliberate choice to sacrifice these individuals? Were these suicide bombers trying to demonstrate their ideological zeal in order to prove the depth of their conversion? However you think of it, this illustrates Daech’s terrifying capacity to indoctrinate.”

Hundreds of French jihadists in Iraq and Syria

“We have identified more than 1,550 French citizens or residents who are involved in terrorist networks in Syria and Iraq," Valls said. "[The figures] have almost tripled since January 1, 2014.”

Intelligence services confirmed that 800 of these had traveled to the zone, 434 are there now and 96 were killed there, said the prime minister.

In terms of jihadists from other places in the EU, Valls cited numbers recently released by the EU’s Commissioner for Justice, Vera Jourova, who estimated that there are between 5,000 and 6,000 Europeans in Syria.

Like Jourova, “we fear that the number of foreigners will surpass the 10,000 mark by the end of the year,” he said.

The ‘French Patriot Act’

Valls revealed the new numbers in front of the National Assembly as debate opened on a controversial new law meant to increase the powers of French intelligence services. French lawmakers have been preparing the text of the law for several months, after the January attacks on Paris. The aim is to give wider powers to Paris’ intelligence services, who will no longer have to get a judge’s authorisation to carry out surveillance and infiltration activities.

Valls refuted the idea that the law is the equivalent to a French “Patriot Act,” the law passed by the US in the wake of the 9/11 attacks that gave American security services unprecedented access to private data. He also denied that it will result in the widespread surveillance of French citizens, as its critics claim.

“The critics or the posturing that refer to a French Patriot Act or the stench of a police state are outright lies and irresponsible in the context of threat we face,” Valls said.

Several hundred people protested Monday outside the National Assembly in Paris to decry “mass surveillance” and a text that would “kill liberty".

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

 

 

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