The new age of anti-terrorism

Le Monde

16.03.2013

A year after Mohamed Merah’s killing spree in Toulouse and its surroundings, the domestic anti-terrorist initiatives of the French intelligence services comes under criticism for the failures in the case.  With problems in information sharing, lack of coordination and rivalries, French attempts to combat terrorism are criticised in front of the Committee of Inquiry which assesses the state’s intelligence operation a year after the Merah incident.

The tension between a variety of intelligence organs such as the police and military intelligence, who are all in charge with the monitoring of radicalization amongst Muslims in France, have according to the Committee of Inquiry contributed to failed discovery of Merah’s radicalisation and assassination plans.

As a result, the Central Directorate of Interior Intelligence (DCRI) assured last month in front of the Defence Committee of the French National Assembly to have reformed its services and widened its scope. In order to ease the coordination between intelligence cells, the position of a cross coordinator was created. Internal investigations have simultaneously led to the dismissal of several members of the intelligence service.

The case of a broader reform of the intelligence apparatus is expected to come to a conclusion by the end of March. Whilst reforms were introduced after the Merah incident, the judicial apparatus operated in full swing: accordingly, in 2012, 78 people were arrested in connection with the combat against jihadism in comparison to 47 in 2011. Thirty of them were referred to the public prosecutor in comparison to 21 a year before.

With transnational networks of jihadists rising, the fear of the intelligence apparatus to miss out on another case leads to increased scrutiny and harsher as well as quicker sentences being made.

French intelligence curtailed tracking of Toulouse gunman

French intelligence services curtailed supervision of Islamist gunman Mohamed Merah a few months before his shooting spree in Toulouse despite his known links to extremists, according to leaked documents. The reports from France’s DCRI domestic intelligence service, seen by AFP, show that Merah was under intense surveillance throughout 2011 but that agents decided to reduce monitoring.

They show that Merah, who had been under surveillance since 2006, was identified as a “privileged target” at the beginning of last year after returning from a trip to Afghanistan, where he was detained in November 2010. Surveillance from March to July indicated he was in regular contact with “the radical Islamist movement in Toulouse”, said he was showing “paranoid behaviour” and that he was receiving funds from extremists.

French intelligence services have been repeatedly criticised for failing to prevent Merah’s attacks. Merah, a self-described Al-Qaeda sympathiser, shot a rabbi, three Jewish schoolchildren and three French paratroopers in attacks in and around the southern city of Toulouse in March, before being shot dead in a police siege.

Doubts prevail in of number of full-face veil-wearing women in France

This short article examines the question of how the number of women wearing full-face veils in France is counted. At the beginning of the controversy, a study undertaken by the DCRI (Direction centrale du renseignement intérieur) for Le Monde counted 367 niqab-wearing women. This number according to the DCRI is an estimate. Several weeks later in the fall of 2009, the minister of the interior claimed there were 1900 such women, or approximately 0.03% of the population.