French PM warns 15,000 people being radicalized, 1,400 probed amid foiled terror plots
“The threat [of attacks on France] is at its highest we have seen it in recent days; it is there even as we speak now,” Manuel Valls said in an interview with Europe 1 radio and Itele television on Sunday.
“There will be new attacks, there will be innocent victims. It is my job to tell this truth to the French people… We are a target – everyone understands this,” he added, stating that at least two attacks were foiled during the past week, while “every day, the intelligence services, police and gendarmerie thwart attacks and dismantle [terror] channels.”
The French capital was put on “maximum” alert this week after French officials said they had broken up an Islamic State-affiliated (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) “terrorist cell” that was planning to hit at a Paris railway. French police arrested three radicalized women who reportedly intended to bomb the populous Paris Gare de Lyon railway station to avenge the death of IS leader Abu Muhammed al-Adnani.
Valls said the authorities are presently watching some 15,000 who could be radicals planning terror acts.
“We have nearly 700 French jihadists and French residents, who are currently fighting in Iraq and Syria,” he added, noting that this figure included “275 women and dozens of children.”
Valls also responded to comments recently made by France’s former president, Nicolas Sarkozy. In an interview with Le Journal du Dimanche (JDD) newspaper, Sarkozy said France needed to create “a special anti-terrorist court” and place French citizens suspected of having militant links in preventative detention in order to boost security. Valls slammed Sarkozy’s idea, saying such measures could inspire more attacks, while also criticizing the anti-terrorism measures Sarkozy took while he was in office.
“[Nicolas Sarkozy] made a mistake as president when he evaluated the extent of the [terror] threat. [His policy] weakened our security and defense by reducing investments in our internal and external security forces and reducing the [number of servicemen].”
“He is wrong about trying to wring the neck of the rule of law against the threat. His [method] is wrong [and], if he were in power to do [as he proposes], there would be more attacks,” Valls said.
The PM also mentioned a suggestion recently made by French Justice Minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas, who proposed creating “10,000 [prison] spaces within the next ten years” to incarcerate those accused of plotting or carrying out terror attacks. On Saturday, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced that French authorities have arrested some 293 people “engaged in terrorist networks” since the beginning of the year.
France has been on high alert since January of 2015, when it was hit by a series of Islamic State-linked terrorist attacks. The biggest loss of life took place in November of 2015, when at least 130 people were killed and 368 injured in coordinated terror attacks in Paris and Saint-Denis, a northern Parisian suburb. A tragedy in Nice on July 14 of this year killed at least 84 people when a truck driven by an IS sympathizer plowed through crowds during Bastille Day celebrations. The French parliament voted to extend the country’s state of emergency by six additional months after the Nice attack.