Posts Tagged ‘France’

Burkina Faso Stunned by Another Deadly Extremist Attack

August 16, 2017

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso — The scene was all too familiar: Islamic extremists striking a popular dining spot while dozens of patrons, many of them foreigners, took a break from daily life in Burkina Faso. Victims were gunned down at random. Gunfire rang out for hours as special forces worked to secure the scene.

After Sunday night’s deadly attack on Kwame N’krumah Avenue, some in this West African nation are wondering: How could this happen again only 200 meters (yards) away from the first massacre in January 2016? And why is the capital no safer?

Location of  Burkina Faso  (dark blue)– in Africa  (light blue & dark grey)– in the African Union  (light blue)  –  [Legend]

“There are no words to explain our anger and despair,” said Ousseni Tanagda, whose job selling phone credit has suffered since the 2016 attack on a popular cafe. “I was afraid of staying here because the security measures set up earlier were no more strictly respected as they used to be.”

While Burkina Faso shares a border with volatile Mali — long home to such attacks — the 2016 massacre that killed 30 people shocked many in Ouagadougou. The capital is home to many foreigners working with the United Nations and international aid organizations in this desperately poor country on the edge of the Sahara.

After that attack, security measures were strengthened at sensitive places such as banks, hotels and restaurants, with many hiring armed security personnel. As more time passed without another attack, locals say some of those measures eased.

In recent months, however, the United States and France warned their citizens to avoid certain areas of Burkina Faso, mainly the unstable north near Mali and Niger but also the capital.

Already Sunday’s assault on the Aziz Istanbul restaurant that left 18 people dead has had political fallout, with one former minister saying it underscores “the failure of our security system.”

“Two attacks in about 18 months in the same spot with the same mode of operation, it’s not acceptable,” said Ablasse Ouedraogo, who served as foreign affairs minister during the era of longtime leader Blaise Compaore. “It’s as though we have not learned any lessons.”

Compaore was ousted in a popular uprising in late 2014, and some critics say the military has suffered during the years of political upheaval ever since. During the 2016 assault, Burkina Faso’s security forces waited for hours before trying to intervene despite having people at the scene. During Sunday’s attack, gunfire also rang out for nearly seven hours before officials noted there were only two assailants.

Capt. Guy Ye, spokesman for the special forces, said they are better equipped now than in 2016 but he acknowledged they are still learning.

“There were hostages who had to be freed before launching the assault against the terrorists who were hiding in the back of the restaurant,” he said.

Ouedraogo, the former minister, said the army and security sector need an overhaul. Already they’ve received specialized training from both the French and U.S. militaries.

Felix Alexandre Sanfo, a security expert, said Burkinabes are learning they must accept that the threat of terrorism is here to stay, just as it is in many other parts of the world.

“Many think it’s a problem that can be solved definitively,” Sanfo said. “We are not prepared to maintain an elevated level of vigilance on a permanent basis. People have quickly let down their guard because they think the danger is behind us.”

On the contrary, regional security analysts point to a deepening and troubling Islamic extremism movement in northern Burkina Faso, where an Australian doctor who had spent decades treating civilians has been abducted and remains missing.

The region is now the home of a Burkinabe extremist figure, Malam Dicko, who has collaborated with militants across the border in Mali. Among his objectives has been seeking to end the use of French, the former colonizer’s language, in regional schools. Burkinabe forces backed by French military counterparts have tried to take out Dicko but he remains at large.

Burkina Faso is now one of five regional nations putting together a 5,000-strong force to fight the growing threat from extremists in the vast Sahel region. The first units are expected to deploy in October and all battalions should be on the ground by March. The countries have been pressing the international community to help funding; a gap of 305 million euros ($356 million) remains.

Burkina Faso’s government knows it must move quickly to avoid the political instability and human suffering inflicted by extremists to the north in Mali.

“If we do not master intelligence quickly, we will continue to count the dead due to terrorism because the situation is alarming,” said an intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to journalists.

“We are vulnerable now, and the situation calls for lucid, cool and objective analysis.”

___

Associated Press writer Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal contributed.

France in Contact With Local Authorities Over Burkina Faso Attack, Advises Citizens to Avoid Area

August 14, 2017

PARIS — The local French embassy in Burkina Faso is in contact with local authorities regarding the attack on a restaurant and French citizens are advised to avoid the area, the French foreign ministry said in a statement.

“Our embassy is being kept informed of the situation due to permanent contact with local authorities,” the foreign ministry said in the statement.

Suspected jihadists killed at least 17 people and wounded eight during a raid on a restaurant in Burkina Faso’s capital, the communications minister said, as security forces sought to free people still trapped inside on Monday.

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Michael Perry)

Libyan Military Strongman Haftar Visiting Russia

August 12, 2017

MOSCOW — Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar was due to arrive in Moscow on Saturday ahead of a meeting with Russia’s foreign minister, RIA news agency reported, citing a Russian negotiator.

Haftar is expected to meet Sergei Lavrov on Monday, Lev Dengov, head of the Russian contact group on Libya, told RIA. It was not immediately clear what the pair would be discussing.

At the end of July, Haftar and Libya’s Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj committed during talks in France to a conditional ceasefire and to elections, but a Italian naval mission aimed to help the country curb migrant flows has fueled tension this month.

Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army controls much of eastern and southern Libya.

It has rejected a U.N.-backed government in Tripoli that is struggling to assert authority over an array of armed factions which have been competing for control since the 2011 fall of Muammar Gaddafi.

Haftar has held talks with Russian officials before and in January he was given a tour of a Russian aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean.

The head of the U.N.-backed government visited Moscow in March, and the Kremlin said then it wanted to help repair the damage it said had been done by Western involvement in the country.

(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Additional reporting by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Alison Williams)

250,000 contaminated eggs sold in France since April: minister

August 11, 2017

AFP

© Belga/AFP/File | At least 11 countries in Europe have found eggs contaminated with the chemical fipronil since the scare emerged on August 1

PARIS (AFP) – Nearly 250,000 insecticide-contaminated eggs have been sold in France since April, but the risk for consumers is “very low,” French Agriculture Minister Stephane Travert said Friday.A first batch of 196,000 eggs, imported from Belgium, was distributed between April 16 and May 2, and was followed by a second batch of 48,000 Dutch eggs sold by the discount retailer Leader Price between July 19 and 28, Travert told RMC radio.

“The risk for human health is very low, given the levels of fipronil detected in the contaminated eggs, but also given French habits of food consumption,” Travert said.

Fipronil is a chemical used to get rid of fleas, lice and ticks from farm livestock but is banned by the European Union from use in the food industry.

At least 11 countries in Europe have found eggs contaminated with fipronil since the scare emerged on August 1.

Millions of eggs and egg-based products have been destroyed or pulled from supermarket shelves.

The episode has also unleashed finger-pointing among European countries over who is to blame and whether there was a cover up.

Related:

.
.
.

French Security Forces Now Top Targets of Islamic Radicals

August 10, 2017

PARIS — French soldiers taking part in Operation Sentinelle are the highest profile symbols of the fight against Islamic extremism — but along with other security forces patrolling French streets are increasingly the main targets of attacks.

Operation Sentinelle was created to guard prominent French sites after a string of deadly attacks in 2015. The soldiers’ status as representatives, and defenders, of the state, has put security forces in the line of fire. But experts offer other reasons, too, for why attacks in France have recently focused on heavily armed protectors.

No civilians have been attacked this year — although intelligence services have foiled seven planned attacks, France’s interior minister said recently. More than 230 people, many of them out for a night of fun, were killed in 2015 and 2016.

Islamic radicals may seek extra media visibility presumably afforded by going after emblematic targets or be tempted by the wish to die as a “martyr,” several experts said. Or they may want to up assurance of redemption with an especially “heroic” act in the ultimate stage of a life spent mainly in delinquency in which security forces were the top enemy, the experts added.

Knives, machetes, hammers and vehicles have been used in the seven attacks this year — in each case against security forces — despite France’s state of emergency. In the latest, on Wednesday, a BMW slammed into six soldiers as they left their barracks outside Paris for duty in what authorities said was a “deliberate” attack. The suspect, an Algerian living legally in France, was arrested after a highway manhunt and hospitalized with bullet wounds.

“We need to finally suppress the idea that there is a common profile for terrorists,” said Alain Bauer, a leading criminologist and security expert. But, he added, attacking security forces is “a la mode” now in France.

In 2015 and 2016, soft targets were more common, after a Syrian who served the Islamic State group as its high-profile spokesman and strategist before being killed urged sympathizers in Europe and the U.S. to launch attacks against civilians — “especially the spiteful and filthy French.” High-level attacks, from the November 2015 massacres in Paris to last year’s Bastille Day truck attack in Nice, followed, with 216 dead.

This year, one person, a police officer on the crowded Champs-Elysees Avenue, has been killed. One attacker died in a second incident on the avenue after his car laden with weapons caught fire after he rammed it into a convoy of gendarmes.

Not all the attacks were claimed by IS, and like the attacker who plowed his car into the soldiers, not all were French. Except for Wednesday’s car attack, the attackers chose tourist haunts — going after security forces, not the crowds.

A study released in March by the Center for Terrorism Analysis, or CAT, showed that France isn’t alone. Attacks on security forces have been a constant in the West. Between 2013 and 2016, a majority — 53 percent — of 72 targeted attacks, either carried out, attempted or planned, were aimed at society’s protectors. The study also showed that France, with the highest number of Western jihadis in Syria and Iraq, and largest Muslim population in Western Europe, was the most targeted Western country.

IS cites France’s participation in the U.S.-led coalition when claiming attacks in the country.

“They want to die as martyrs,” said Jean-Charles Brisard, president of the CAT center.

In November 2015, when teams of extremists stormed into Paris from Brussels and killed 130 people enjoying a weekend on the town, they “waited for intervention forces to arrive to die with weapons in their hands facing apostate forces,” Brisard claimed.

For another expert, Alain Rodier, a former intelligence officer, many French Islamic extremists who go after symbols of the state had spent much of their lives doing just that as small-time delinquents. In France, police and youth in tough neighborhoods have notoriously bad relations with authorities in uniform and some delinquents who radicalize repeat old habits, he said.

“In reality, they’ve transferred what they did before,” Rodier said. They are people who haven’t traveled to combat zones and take action “on their own initiative,” he said, adding that the notion of redemption also can also motivate the choice of targets. They are often fed by extremist preachers whose message is “the more heroic the action the more their sins are pardoned.”

Wednesday’s attack threw the spotlight on the Sentinelle force, currently 7,000-strong with half of its members posted in the Paris region. Some have questioned why soldiers are patrolling sensitive sights from train stations and airports to places of worship — when they have never stopped an assault since their deployment after attacks in January 2015 on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper and a Kosher grocery.

The soldiers are “a presence that reassures, protects,” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said Wednesday, but also symbols “and therefore direct targets.”

They are also magnets for attacks, Bauer said.

The force’s real purpose, Bauer said, is “just trying to convince your population that you’re safe … (and) let everybody go to work every day.”

Be they soldiers, police or gendarmes — all of whom have been attacked this year — the crucial determinant is media attention, according to Bauer.

“Terrorism is about communication and violence,” he said.

France: Car ramming into soldiers being treated as a probable act of terrorism

August 9, 2017

PARIS — French counter-terrorist investigators have been asked to probe an incident in which a car rammed into a group of soldiers in a Paris suburb on Wednesday, a source in the judiciary said.

A judicial source told Reuters that the department had taken up the matter and was working alongside colleagues from the DGSI internal intelligence agency – a move that in France shows the matter is being treated as a probable act of terrorism.

A statement from French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly added that police forces were looking for a suspect on the run after the incident, in which police said six soldiers were injured, two of them seriously.

(Reporting by Myriam Rivet; Writing by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Brian Love and Alison Williams)

Related:

Car rams into soldiers outside Paris, six injured

August 9, 2017

AFP

© AFP / by Gina DOGGETT | French police are scrambling to track down the vehicle involved in ramming soldiers outside Paris on August 8, 2017

PARIS (AFP) – French police launched a manhunt on Wednesday after a car rammed into soldiers near their barracks outside Paris, injuring six people, two of them seriously.Police were scrambling to track down the vehicle, which took off after the incident described by local mayor Patrick Balkany as “without a doubt a deliberate act”.

The incident took place at about 8:00 am (0600 GMT) outside a military barracks in the northwestern Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret.

Balkany told the all-news channel BFMTV that the car “accelerated very fast when they (soldiers) were coming out” of the barracks.

France has been under a state of emergency since November 2015 and has seen a string of attacks on security forces, particularly those guarding key tourist sites.

On Saturday an 18-year-old with a history of psychological problems was arrested on Saturday at the Eiffel Tower after brandishing a knife and shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest).

He told investigators he wanted to kill a soldier, sources close to the case told AFP.

– String of bloody attacks –

In the bloodiest attack targeting France, 130 people were killed in a wave of shootings and bombings in Paris on November 13, 2015, in carnage claimed by the Islamic State group (IS).

In January 2015, two brothers who had vowed allegiance to Al-Qaeda gunned down 12 people at satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

France is part of the US-led international coalition fighting IS and has carried out air strikes against the extremist group in Syria.

In February, a man armed with a machete attacked four soldiers on patrol at Paris’s Louvre Museum, while in April another extremist shot and killed a policeman on the Champs Elysees.

In June, a 40-year-old Algerian doctorate student who had pledged allegiance to IS attacked a policeman with a hammer outside Notre Dame cathedral.

The attacks have taken a serious toll on tourism to France, the world’s top tourist destination, but the industry has begun to recover as incidents have become more widespread and generally less deadly.

With terror attacks hitting not just France but also Belgium, Britain and Germany, potential travellers show “a kind of fatalism”, said Josette Sicsic, head of Touriscopie, a firm that tracks tourist behaviour.

The French tourism ministry expects a five to six percent increase in overall arrivals to France this year, for a new record of 89 million visitors in 2017.

The lowest point for Paris came at the end of March 2016 — four and a half months after the Paris attacks when IS jihadists targeted people enjoying an evening out at trendy eateries, a concert hall and the national stadium.

In a rebound that began at the end of 2016, Paris saw a record 2.6 million foreign arrivals in the first four months of this year — a 19 percent increase over the same period last year.

by Gina DOGGETT

French ‘rebel valley’ farmer given suspended jail term for helping migrants

August 8, 2017

AFP

© Valéry Hache, AFP | Cédric Herrou has been hailed as a hero by some and branded irresponsible by others for driving migrants across the border and giving them accommodation.

Text by FRANCE 24 

Latest update : 2017-08-08

A French court of appeal has handed down a four-month suspended jail term on Cédric Herrou, an olive farmer renowned for helping migrants slip into the country.

Herrou, 37, was convicted by the court in Aix-en-Provence for illegally helping migrants across the French-Italian border under the noses of the French police.

The sentence is stiffer than the €3,000 suspended fine handed by a court in Nice earlier this year, though it falls short of the eight-month suspended prison term prosecutors had requested.

Herrou, whose farm is located a few kilometres from the Italian border, was also tried for giving shelter to around 50 migrants from Eritrea in an abandoned holiday camp.

At his first trial in Nice, the unrepentant olive farmer said he was compelled to help migrants “because it has to be done… Families are suffering”.

He also defended his decision to put up five minors – a Sudanese youth and four Eritreans – at his home, saying it was up to local officials “to face up to their responsibilities”.

Herrou is one of several people to appear in court in southern France recently charged with illegally assisting migrants who have travelled up through Europe after crossing the Mediterranean in rickety boats.

THE ROYA, FRANCE’S REBEL VALLEY THAT SHELTERS MIGRANTS

Their cases have cast a spotlight on the actions of residents of the Roya Valley, dubbed the “rebel valley”, who have been helping migrants across the border from Italy, providing food and shelter, tending to their wounds and offering lifts to nearby towns.

On January 7, a court acquitted researcher Pierre-Alain Mannoni, who had faced a six-month suspended jail sentence for aiding Eritrean migrants who entered France through the valley.

Such cases have pitched the traditional spirit of solidarity against the letter of the law at a time when border controls and migration have become hot-button issues, particularly earlier in the year in the run-up to the presidential and legislative elections in France.

France has accepted relatively few migrants compared with the more than one million taken in by Germany since 2015. But many travel though the country, often attempting to reach Britain or other countries in northern Europe.

A squalid makeshift camp dubbed “The Jungle” in the northern French port of Calais was dismantled by authorities in October last year.

Paris city authorities have now laid on more permanent accommodation centres after tented camps sprang up around the capital.

Date created : 2017-08-08

Tainted eggs scandal spreads to Britain, France

August 7, 2017

AFP

© ANP/AFP / by Danny KEMP | Eggs stacking up a Dutch poultry farm shut down over the discovery of the insecticide fipronol

BRUSSELS (AFP) – Britain and France said Monday that some insecticide-tainted eggs may have entered the country, as millions of chickens faced being culled in the Netherlands in a growing European contamination scandal.Belgium meanwhile vowed full transparency about why it kept the scandal secret despite originally learning in June about the problem involving fipronil, a substance potentially dangerous to humans.

Supermarkets in Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium have pulled millions of eggs from the shelves since Belgium gave the European Commission the first notification on July 20, while retailers in Sweden and Switzerland have followed suit.

The European Commission said Monday that under its EU rapid alert system it had been determined that eggs under suspicion of contamination had also been distributed to France and Britain via Germany.

“It’s now up to the Swedish, Swiss, French and to the UK to check because all these eggs are traceable and trackable,” European Commission spokeswoman Anna-Kaisa Itkonen told reporters.

Britain’s Food Standards Agency said it was “urgently investigating the distribution of these eggs in the UK” from farms at the centre of the scare, while adding that “the number of eggs involved is very small and the risk to public health is very low”.

It did not give a number but said it represented 0.0001 percent of eggs annually imported into Britain.

Contaminated eggs being destroyed

Eggs being destroyed

“We are working closely with the businesses that have received eggs from affected farms. Investigations to date indicate that any affected products are no longer on the shelves,” it said.

The French government said thirteen batches of Dutch eggs contaminated with fipronil have been found at two food-processing factories in central-western France.

The agriculture ministry said they were unable to immediately say whether any of the products had been shipped to customers.

It is believed the toxic substance was introduced to poultry farms by a Dutch business named Chickfriend brought in to treat red lice, a parasite in chickens.

Dutch and Belgian media reports that the substance containing the insecticide was supplied to Chickfriend by a Belgian firm have not been confirmed.

Dutch farming organisation LTO said that several million hens may need to be culled at 150 companies in the country, with 300,000 having already been killed.

An LTO spokesman said they “had to be eliminated because of contamination”.

– ‘Complete transparency’ –

Dutch authorities have shuttered 138 poultry farms — about a fifth of those across the country — and warned that eggs from another 59 farms contained high enough levels of fipronil that they should not be eaten by children.

Belgium currently has production blocked from 51 farms — a quarter of those nationwide — with fipronil found at 21 farms, although levels were ten times below the maximum EU limit, the country’s food safety authority AFSCA said.

Belgium’s agriculture minister meanwhile said he had ordered the agency to report by Tuesday on why it failed to notify neighbouring countries until July 20 despite knowing about fipronil contamination since June.

Denis Ducarme said in a statement he had told (AFSCA) to produce a “report on the circumstances of the agency’s actions since the first information it received about the fipronil problem”

Facing pressure from Germany and the Netherlands, Ducarme promised “complete transparency”.

He said he would speak by telephone with his counterparts in the coming days.

Belgian officials admitted on Saturday they had kept the problem under wraps and failed to trigger the EU’s international food safety alert system, but said it was because of a fraud probe.

Germany has demanded an explanation from Belgium about why the issue was kept covered up.

Fipronil is commonly used in veterinary products to get rid of fleas, lice and ticks. But it is banned from being used to treat animals destined for human consumption, such as chickens.

The substance is absorbed into the skin or feathers of chickens and then passes into the eggs.

In large quantities, the insecticide is considered to be “moderately hazardous” according to the World Health Organization, and can have dangerous effects on people’s kidneys, liver and thyroid glands.

burs-axr-dk/rl

by Danny KEMP
.
Related:
.
.
.
.

Woman ‘barred from French vacation home pool over burkini’

August 6, 2017

A report has alleged that a woman vacationing with her family in France was kicked out of a vacation home pool due to her full-body swimsuit. The owner then reportedly tried to retain the deposit for pool cleaning fees.

Musliminnen in einem Schwimmbad Burkini Deutschland (picture alliance/dpa/Rolf Haid)

A Muslim woman was barred from using a swimming pool at a vacation home in southern France because she wore a burkini bathing suit, the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) said on its website.

Read more: The burkini debate – Is female nudity empowering?

The CCIF said the woman wore the full-body swimsuit to the pool in the southern coastal city of La Ciotat without an issue. On the second day, however, the woman was instructed to get out of the pool and her husband was told she was not allowed to swim for the rest of their stay.

The owner of the vacation home told the family that the pool needed to be drained and cleaned since the woman had used it. He then reportedly withheld the family’s 490-euro ($577) deposit in order to pay for the cleaning fees.

Read more: Why the burkini causes so much controversy

No hygiene concerns

The CCIF dismissed the house owner’s claims that the woman’s suit was unhygienic, as burkinis are made from elastic synthetic fabrics used for wetsuits and other types of swimwear. Burkinis cover all areas of the body except for the face, hands and feet.

Controversy over the full-body swimsuit erupted in France last summer when several communities along the French Riviera banned burkinis on public beaches.

The bans were eventually struck down by France’s highest administrative court, which said they constituted serious and illegal violations of fundamental freedoms.

rs/tj (dpa, EFE)