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Paris is Overwhelmed by the Jihadi Threat

September 9, 2014

As I’ve previously reported, France stands on the front lines of Europe’s struggle against the Salafi jihad, with numerous violent incidents in the country in recent years perpetrated by terrorists who radicalized while they were at home, not abroad. The urgency of the situation has been clarified by the revelation that French national Mehdi Nemmouche, who murdered three Jews in Brussels, was a notorious torturer for the Islamic State while he waged jihad in Syria. Reports that Nemmouche had much bigger plans, including a terrorist attack on the Champs Élysées parade on Bastille Day, have hardly calmed nerves in Paris.

Calmness is not in order in France now, as the number of its citizens waging jihad in Syria and Iraq, mostly on behalf of the Islamic State, is without precedent. While earlier jihadi campaigns in Bosnia in the 1990s or in Iraq a decade ago, for instance, attracted a few dozen French nationals apiece, the current wars in the Middle East have involved nearly a thousand French citizens — 942 in Syria over the last two years, according to French intelligence, which tracks the involvement of these fighters as best it can. Paris believes that about 350 French citizens are waging jihad in Iraq and Syria at present, and French security services are simply overwhelmed by the number of extremists — known jihadists, would-be jihadists, plus returning jihadists — they need to track.

This dire situation is clarified in a new interview in the Parisian daily L’Opinion with Marc Trévidic, a counterterrorism magistrate with long experience in dealing with jihadists. Known for his frank talk about terrorism, Trévidic minces no words, portraying French intelligence, police, and courts as “disarmed” in the face of a new and more dangerous domestic extremism scene that is now directly tied to Syria and Iraq, as well as the Islamic State. His recent words to the media paint a disturbing portrait:

Everything is different these days! Before, would-be jihadis had a smattering of instruction. There is no religious background now; it is the image that wins them over. The appeal is to their feelings, not to their intellect. The explosion is due to the Internet. The youngsters we have to deal with are overexcited, not intellectually radicalized … The profiles are completely disparate. Some are impossible to check out. Never before have we come up against women and minors! Before long, the only age group missing will be the very old…

Neither is Paris equipped, legally or operationally, to deal with the hundreds of jihadists, seasoned in battle, who are returning home:

We can no longer sift them or monitor them as before to find out what their intentions are. We are forced to arrest them as soon as they set foot in the country. We need to know what they have been through. On the whole, they have been through horrendous experiences. We lack the evidence needed to probe them properly. However, some of them are potentially dangerous, all the more so in that they are forced into waging an individual jihad in the attempt to escape detection.

“We lack teeth,” explained the frustrated judge, as the legal system is simply not equipped to handle so many extremists, including large numbers of teenagers without prior criminal history. Trévidic leaves little doubt that France is facing a terrorism threat without precedent in its history, with hundreds — and soon thousands — of radicals that intelligence has difficulty tracking and the police and courts have difficulty arresting and keeping in custody before they kill innocents, as happened in the Merah and Nemmouche cases. The threat is the same in most of Western Europe, and most of those countries are even less equipped to deal with it than France is.

18 Comments
  1. Ihor Molodecky permalink

    Missed your writing this past week. Glad that you are back John.

    Wondering how many of the home grown terrorists mentioned in this article would even see themselves as Salafi jihadists? Maybe giving them too much ideological credit.
    Whatever we call them their numbers are only increasing.

    In my view, their multinational origins make them that much more dangerous as the connections that they make abroad, whether in Syria or Iraq, are brought home with them to their individual home countries providing them with a ready made international network.

    The threat being international in nature, I do not see how France or any other European country can deal with this problem on an individual basis. Requires a united effort on many fronts.

    What is not clear to me is how radical can the response be (such as taking away citizenship) without creating a much larger problem.We do live in interesting times!

    • Thanks — we do indeed live in interesting times. There is no EU-wide solution since the problem varies a lot from country to country. But something needs to be done….now.

  2. Robert Marchenoir permalink

    There is one obvious legal weapon against this, and I’m surprised nobody mentions it : France, and other European countries affected by the problem, need to make it a crime to go fight abroad for the jihadis.

    And it’s indeed a crime. A major one. It’s high treason. Why, a French citizen, of his own accord, would go abroad wage a war, without any mandate from his country, indeed a war which is bound to wreak havoc on France’s foreign policy, and even worse : a war in support of a murderous entity which does not hide its aim of enslaving and destroying the Western world, and France specifically — and French police should just trail these people when they come back to insure they don’t plant bombs all over the place ?

    I say : make it clear that anyone coming back from jihadi killing fields faces ten or twenty years inside, to begin with. Let’s make it a law.

    And then, let it be known, by oblique ways, that if those chaps (and lasses) do insist on their peculiar vacations, some of our boys from the special forces might need some shooting exercise abroad, and, well, you know, shit happens.

    I don’t think this is extremist or far-fetched at all. I believe it’s very reasonable and based on justice and human rights. Most Europeans would certainly approve of such a policy, even some among the Muslim community. Certainly, it wouldn’t stop the jihadi threat right away, but it would contribute to make some aspiring “tourists” think twice.

    Am I day-dreaming ?

    • That is a necessary step. Kosovo and Bosnia have already criminalized it, all of Europe needs to follow suit, IMO.

    • Gus permalink

      I don’t think criminalization would help that much because I don’t think that people who decide to join ISIL are thinking that far ahead. Often those kinds of decisions are made on the basis of emotion. The thought about going back comes up when perhaps not everything worked out as they thought it would (and they are still alive). I think that you should also give people a chance to leave ISIL if they want to as that weakens ISIL. Criminalizing those people would not help in that respect. Of course it probably would help in keeping them from causing danger.. but for how long?

      • Robert Marchenoir permalink

        Sorry about the Godwin aspect, but suppose you were British in 1940 and some of your fellow citizens went to Germany to join the SS. Would you be glad to “give them a chance to leave the Nazis”, and hand them a clean bill of health on their return, as that would “weaken Hitler” ? Or would you rather try them as traitors and have them shot, hanged or whatever was the lawful punishment of such deeds at the time ?

        I don’t see how this is any different. Indeed, the Islamic State is arguably worse, much worse.

  3. Reblogged this on Public Secrets and commented:
    Unrestricted (or very loosely restricted) immigration combined with poor results at assimilation (multiculturalism has much to answer for) has left France and much of Europe facing a dangerous “domestic jihad” threat.

  4. genomega1 permalink

    Reblogged this on News You May Have Missed and commented:
    Paris is Overwhelmed by the Jihadi Threat

  5. Reblogged this on Aquilon's Eyrie and commented:
    The article give a good idea of the problems France has with radical Muslims.

  6. David P. Crawford permalink

    Interesting study on why young Europeans join the global jihad: Joining Jihadi Terrorist Cells in Europe – book chapter in in Magnus Ranstorp (ed),Understanding Violent Radicalisation: Terrorist and Jihadist Movements in Europe (2009) ISBN 9780203865743, Taylor & Francis pp 87-115

    In my opinion the extreme coercive actions suggested by some (i.e.: stripping would be jihadist of their citizenship) is not only legally questionable, they would make things worse and not better for the french government. They would alienate potential young recruits more and feed into their own narrative.
    As Peter Nesser says in the study mentioned above: those idealist activists “above all, call for social and political justice and fair treatment of fellow Muslims around the world.” Through their own experience of injustice and alienation at home, those young European recruits can easily identify with the plight of the Syrian people. The lack of direct involvement from the world community in the human tragedy unfolding in Syria mirrors their own alienation, abandonment and injustices. Whether there is any validity in their assessment or it is a question of perception is another question that ought to be addressed if we want to prevent young recruits to throw away their lives and that of countless others.

    Also, making it hard for disillusioned fighters to return home would ignore their great potential as a source of intelligence.

    • Robert Marchenoir permalink

      So the way of not feeding the Muslim narrative is to yield to Muslim dictatorship ?

      Those are not “activists”, they are bloody murderers. Their “ideal” is to enslave, rape, torture and kill us. Enough with that leftist crap, please.

      Social and political justice is a bad thing. Social and political justice is socialism, and socialism is a bad thing. Besides, they do not want socialism : they want islam. Fair treatment of Muslims, to Muslims, is allowing them to have a world califate. The answer is no.

      • David P. Crawford permalink

        Neither I nor Peter Nesser are advocating socialism. This is so far removed from my political leaning and natural disposition. If you only dared read the couple of pages of the study to which I linked and read my words for what they are and not what you’d like them to mean you might have spared us your diatribe.

        Also, I wish you had taken me up on my reasoning and argued a few other points I made that I thought deserved some consideration. For example you chose to ignore the intelligence value those returning jihadists present to delve into the rhetorical sensationalism and emotional nonsense so rampant in MSM.

        You are entitled to your opinion. And I respect that. But have the intellectual integrity to argue your opinion constructively instead of spewing belligerent biased nonsense like : ” they are not activists, they are bloody murderers.” Activists can sometimes be murderers and vice-versa (i.e.: abortion clinic bombings)

        Marchenoire, your path is indeed a macabre path !

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