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France and most of the rest of the world seem to be caught off-guard by the spontaneous rioting that began 11 days ago in and around Paris.
But the country’s leading anti-terror expert, Judge Jean-Louis Brugiere, saw it coming and warned about the threat more than one month ago.
Brugiere, an investigating magistrate, issued a stark assessment Oct. 4 that France faced a high-level threat from extremist, Islamic groups and he warned that the radicalization of Muslims was growing in the country.
The threat level is “undeniably high. Never, has radicalization been as strong,” he said in an interview in Le Fiago. “It is directly linked to the situation in Iraq, which has changed the contours of the threat.”
Brugiere also warned that the attacks in the future could be unconventional, saying “a chemical attack is still to be considered.” He said some of the networks have already experimented and trained with chemical and biological agents.
Brugiere also refused to discount the threat that a terrorist group would use a nuclear device.
France’s previous brush with Islamic radicalism was linked with its former colony of Algeria and perceptions that Paris was backing the military regime led by the Algerian generals against a popular Islamic movement that had won national elections.
Algerian radicals attacked French targets in 1995 and subsequently. About a dozen people died in bomb attacks in Paris and Lyons, while French anti-terrorism squads tracked down and shot some of those in a network known as the Islamic Armed Group.
Brugiere warned that a new group as taken the place of the now largely destroyed GIA. In early October, French police made eight arrests and charged four in connection with the new threat.
Now, Brugiere says France is faced with young Muslims who are eager to go to Iraq to fight U.S.-led coalition forces there. They are organized, he said, by networks operating from radical mosques.
France has already broken up several networks that were sending young men to Iraq. The Foreign Ministry said it knows of at least seven nationals who have been killed, while two are in detention and 10 are missing.
“The converts are undeniably the toughest,” Brugiere said. “Conversions today are faster and the commitment is more radical. The young recruits are often sent speedily to theatres of operation like Iraq.”
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