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A French court questioned and released Souad Merah, the sister of al Qaeda-linked Toulouse shooter Mohamed Merah, who killed seven people in 2012. She had spoken approvingly of Merah's actions and of Osama bin Laden. So far three people have been charged in the investigation, including Merah's brother Abdelkader; 30 people have been detained and released.




Counterterrorism authorities announced the prevention of an imminent terrorist attack in the Cote d'Azur region and the arrest of a jihadist who had returned from Syria. The suspect, Ibrahim B., had fled in 2012 along with two other members of the terrorist group Cannes-Torcy to Syria, where they allegedly joined the Al Nusrah Front. A raid on his apartment in Mandelieu-La-Napoule, near Cannes resulted in the seizure of 900 grams of the explosive TATP, along as well as a gun and a computer. Al Qaeda has reissued a call for attacks in France.




French intelligence is questioning seven men and a woman who are suspected of planning to travel to Syria to fight for terrorist groups. The eight suspects were arrested yesterday in and around Paris. An al Qaeda-linked media outlet issued a call on March 7 encouraging "our lone wolves in France" to assassinate President Hollande and attack French government targets in retaliation for France's role in Mali and the Central African Republic.




Three young men who aspired to be Syrian jihadists were handed prison terms ranging from two to five years, in the first prosecution of its kind in France. Youssef Ettaoujar, Salah-Eddine Gourmat, and Fares Farsi were arrested in May 2012 while trying to board a flight to Turkey. Last week a 14-year-old girl was stopped from flying to Turkey.




Romain L., a.k.a. Abu Siyad Al-Normandy, a 26-year-old Muslim convert from Calvados, appeared in court on charges of incitement to terrorism for administering the jihadist website Ansar al Haqq and translating al Qaeda's magazine Inspire into French. He is the first person to be prosecuted under a law that was enacted in late 2012. In recent years, al Qaeda has increasingly called for cyber-jihad.




Police in Dijon detained an Egyptian who was traveling on the Paris-Venice night train with a bottle of suspected explosives. The man, a resident of Italy, reportedly said he was unaware of the nature of the products he was carrying.




A French court is investigating two teenage boys from Toulouse suspected of trying to travel to Syria to join a terrorist group. The father of one of the boys said his son was radicalized over the Internet. Authorities are looking for a teenage girl missing from Avignon who may have gone to Syria. Interior Minister Manuel Valls said judges could prosecute persons who have traveled to join groups such as the Al Nusrah Front.




Defense Minister Le Drian said France plans to expand its military presence in Africa, with the permanent deployment of 3,000 troops to bases in Niger, Mali and Chad, and to a logistics base in Ivory Coast and a special forces base in Burkina Faso. He said the work of cracking down on extremists in Libya will be a "long-term" project.




The Toulouse prosecutor said two 15-year-old French boys have left France for jihad in Syria. President Hollande said some 700 French nationals and residents have traveled to Syria for jihad, and Interior Minister Valls said 20 of them have died there.




President Hollande said the French contingent of 650 troops in Central African Republic will be doubled within days, but that the intervention would differ from the Malian one, as in CAR, France will serve as a "gendarme." Foreign Minister Fabius said the CAR operation was to help stem mounting sectarian violence, and Defense Minister Le Drian said it could wind down in six months.




To support an African peacekeeping force, France will triple the amount of soldiers it has in CAR to over 1,000 for six months. France's ambassador to the UN predicted that the intervention will probably be easier than the one in Mali. France also has a military presence in Mali, Côte d'Ivoire, Chad, and Gabon.




A former member of France's DGSE spy agency dismissed the claim made by a British anti-racism group in a recent report that French intelligence considered killing hate preacher Abu Hamza in England in the late 1990s. Foreign Minister Fabius said France may begin lifting Iran sanctions in December. France may increase increase its troop presence in the Central African Republic.




Intelligence officers arrested four men in the Parisian suburb of Vitry-sur-Seine who are suspected of running a recruiting network for jihadists in Syria. Two of the men had fought with the Al Nusrah Front. Interior Minister Valls said in September that over 100 French people have gone to join the Syrian rebels, but a source now says that about 440 people from France have gone to Syria to fight and about half are currently in Syria. The source also said about 10 were killed in Syria and some 50 to 60 have returned to France.




Officials are denying that a ransom was paid for the recent release of four French hostages held captive for three years by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb; reports allege that a ransom of $26 million was paid. A negotiator from Niger, former Tuareg rebel Mohamed Akotey, is said to have been instrumental in securing their release. President Hollande said he has not forgotten about seven more French nationals still being held hostage; there are thought to be four in Syria, two in Mali or Niger, and one in Nigeria.




President Hollande said he ordered the recent large-scale joint operation in Mali to help stabilize the country for elections in late November, and warned of the influence of Islamist terrorists evidenced by recent suicide attacks against Chadian peacekeeping troops. Bernard Squarcini, the former head of French intelligence said he was "astonished" that the prime minister claimed to be "deeply shocked" by reports that the US NSA recorded millions of French phone calls.
"The French intelligence services know full well that all countries, whether or not they are allies in the fight against terrorism, spy on each other all the time," Squarcini said.




Prime Minister Ayrault disclosed that two French journalists, Pierre Torrès and Nicolas Hénin, are being held hostage in Syria since disappearing in Aleppo on June 22. Two other French journalists, Didier Francois and Edouard Elias, disappeared on June 6 in Aleppo, a city under the control of al Qaeda forces.




Naamen Meziche, a French national of Algerian origin suspected of links to al Qaeda plots against the US and Europe, was arrested on arrival in France after being extradited from Pakistan. Meziche had been arrested in Pakistan in May 2012 with three other French jihadists, who were extradited to France in April.




Intelligence agents arrested a 21-year-old woman at her apartment in the Belleville district of Paris on suspicion of links to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. She is said to be a reader of AQAP's magazine Inspire. The arrest is the first stemming from an investigation that began in March into a suspected terrorist plot. Yesterday eight members of a militant Islamist group received sentences ranging from eight years to 18 months for recruiting French fighters for al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan and plotting terror attacks. One of the suspects, who remains at large, was sentenced in absentia.




President Hollande said France supports arming the Syrian rebels in a controlled manner so they do not end up in the hands of Islamists. A French Muslim convert was arrested in the Calvados region on terror charges for serving as administrator of the radical Islamist website Ansar al Haqq and as a translator of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's magazine Inspire. Interior Minister Valls warned that more than 130 French jihadists are now fighting in Syria, of a total of about 300 who are either currently fighting or known to be planning to go to Syria; a number of them are Muslim converts. A convert from Toulouse was killed in Syria while fighting regime forces in August.




President Hollande and the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates agreed on the need for more international support for the Syrian opposition and maintaining pressure on the Assad regime to ensure that it commits to negotiations on the Syrian crisis and does not again use chemical weapons. The Foreign Ministry called for a binding UN Security Council resolution to enforce Syria's compliance with the chemical weapons ban, and submitted a draft resolution to the UN.


 
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