France and Germany warn that ISIS is 'planning attacks' during Euro 2016
Of all European countries, France faces the “greatest threat” from Islamist attacks, its internal intelligence chief, Patrick Calvar, told French National Assembly deputies. The country is on high alert due to next month’s Euro 2016 football tournament.
“Clearly, France is the most threatened and we know that Islamic State is planning new attacks,” Calvar told the deputies in a May 10 meeting, the minutes of which were released on Wednesday night.
“Due to suffering setbacks on the battlefield [in Iraq and Syria] ISIS will want to create a diversion and avenge coalition air strikes,” warned Calvar, who has led France’s internal intelligence agency, DGSI, for the past four years.
“They will try to hit as soon as possible, and achieve the greatest possible impact,” Calvar predicted, explaining “This will be a new form of attack, characterized by placing explosive devices in places where there are large crowds and repeating this type of action to create a climate of maximum panic.”
A successful attack would serve as a recruiting tool among French-speaking Muslims, and allow Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) to remain the prime terrorist organization in France, and also Francophone North Africa, said the 60-year-old security official.
Calvar said that about 645 French citizens are thought to be involved in Islamic State’s campaign to establish a caliphate in the Middle East, though about a third intend to return to home, where they could present a security risk.
Calvar admitted that his agency had not even fully understood the routes that the planners of the November terror acts in Paris used to move in and out of Europe and accrue an impressive supply of firearms and explosives in order to carry out assaults on a nightclub, a café and other social venues. The official, who does not often speak in public, said that the spate of attacks, which resulted in the deaths of 130 victims, had been planned in Syria.
One of the explosives was meant to go off on November 13 of last year during a football match at the Stade de France, which will host a series of key matches during the upcoming European Championships.
Calvar said that special security measures have been adopted, and French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has vowed that France “would not drop its guard” during the month-long tournament, which is expected to attract millions of tourists from around the world.
On the same day, German daily Bild reported that Germany's FBI equivalent, the Federal Criminal Police Office, has produced an internal report stating that ISIS is looking to hit "soft targets" that have "symbolic value," specifically pointing out the risks connected with Euro 2016. The report claims that Germany is not just being picked on for its involvement in the Middle East, but other anti-Islamist missions, such as the intervention in Mali.