François Hollande speaking at the Elysée Sunday about the Arrests
Photo: Screen Shot: www.lejdd.fr

On Saturday October 6, a man was shot down and 11 others, all suspected of terrorism, were arrested and placed into custody. The arrests were a direct consequence of a police investigation triggered by an attack against a Jewish shop on September 19. Three policemen were injured lightly in trying to arrest the leader of the alleged terrorist group.

Jérémy Louis-Sidney, 33, religious fundamentalist and polygamist, was shot down after firing against the police and was the main suspect of the investigation. His fingerprints were found on the remains of the grenade that was thrown into the Jewish shop in Sarcelles on September 19.

According to the investigators, Jérémy Louis-Sidney may have been the leader of what is now described as an active terrorist cell, which was apparently ready to launch a large wave of attacks in France.  The group was composed of delinquents born in the 1980s and the 1990s, who had recently converted to a radical branch of Islam during some of their stays in prison.

During their search, the police found 27,000 Euros in cash, four “wills”, “a list of Jewish associations,” and fundamentalist propaganda, indicating multiple proofs of the intentions of the group. The police now intend to discover the next targets of the alleged terrorists who are still in custody today.

Manuel Valls, Minister of the Interior, spoke about the “difficulty” in dealing with the threat of “terrorist networks in our districts.” As he said, “they are not foreigners, they are converted French people, French Muslims.” Valls, along with several officials and political figures, immediately called on the French public “not to confuse them” with the French Muslim community. On the RTL radio channel, Valls also declared that there is a kind of “interior terrorism” in France, with “several dozen, several hundreds of individuals capable of organizing themselves as the group which was just dismantled.”

Especially since Mohammed Merah’s attacks on a Jewish high school in Toulouse in March, the Jewish community feels constantly threatened. Consequently, the day after the arrests, François Hollande welcomed the representatives of the French Jewish community in the Elysée. The French President announced new security measures to protect the places of worship that needed it. On Saturday October 6, in the evening, a synagogue was targeted by blank shots coming from a car, a possible counter-attack after the arrests of the alleged terrorist that day.

Hollande also announced a new bill to be presented to the Parliament regarding “a project of anti-terrorist law,” to be passed “as soon as possible.” The Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault asserted that the government would “leave nothing to chance” when it came to the security of the French people. Ayrault also praised the “remarkable job” of the police.

The former Prime Minister and leading figure of the opposition, François Fillon, showed his support and declared that “the fight against terrorism (demanded) the unity of the nation.”

Marine Le Pen, leader of the extreme-right party Front National (FN), expressed her concerns regarding the arrests, stating that it was “obvious” that these fundamentalist operations “were not under control on [French] soil”. She deplored “a great lack of intelligence” about what happens in the poorest districts and suburbs. According to her, France is witnessing “a hybridization between radical Islam, criminality and drug trafficking.” She also said, “there are thousands of weapons in our suburbs.”

This new case, according to many commentators, proves that terrorist networks are adapting to new techniques. Travelling to Muslim countries or being funded by global terrorist networks is not necessary anymore for terrorism to occur, a fact which makes these groups even more difficult to catch. The recent arrests were a real success for the anti-terrorist law, but the intelligence services need to further adapt to the evolution of terrorism, which is changing its structure and becoming more subtle using social networks.