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France's terrorism risk 'extremely high'

August 31, 2020

French security authorities are monitoring more than 8,000 people suspected of terrorist leanings, the interior minister says. His warning comes ahead of a trial of 14 suspected helpers in deadly attacks in 2015.

Police standing guard at the Eiffel Tower in2015
Image: Getty Images/AFP/B. Guay

France has a terrorism watchlist of 8,132 potentially violent individuals, the country's interior minister warned on Monday, two days before the trial opens of 14 people accused of links to jihadi attacks in January 2015 in which 17 died.

The threat of terrorist attacks "remains extremely high in the country," Gerald Darmanin said during a visit to the DGSI, France's domestic security service.

"The risk of terror of Sunni origin is the main threat our country is facing," he said, adding that 32 planned terrorist attacks had been foiled since 2017.

At the same time, the minister said there were troubling signs of far-right activity in the country as well.

France suffered a series of major Islamist attacks in 2015 and 2016, most of them claimed by the extremist group "Islamic State." More than 250 people were killed.

Read more: Charlie Hebdo and the demise of caricature

Gerald Darmanin
Darmanin said determining which people on the list pose an actual threat was a "very difficult and delicate task"Image: Reuters/G. Fuentes

Not just 'little helpers'

Darbanin's remarks come two days before the trial opens in Paris of 14 alleged accomplices in a spate of attacks from January 7 to 9 starting with an assault on the offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. 

Other linked attacks were the shooting of a policewoman and the siege of a Jewish supermarket. Altogether 17 people were killed in the attacks in the Ile de France region around Paris.

The suspects are to be tried on several charges, including terrorist conspiracy and complicity in murder.

Read more: France: The long shadow of the Saint-Michel terrorist attacks

National anti-terror prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard said on Monday that the suspects were not being tried as "little helpers."

"It is about individuals who are involved in the logistics, the preparation of the events, who provided means of financing, operational material, weapons, a residence," he told France Info radio, adding that such things were "essential to the terrorist action."

Darmanin, in his turn, called the upcoming trial "historic."

tj/ (AFP, dpa)