French and Swiss police anti-terror raids in the greater Paris region of Île-de-France and the Provence Alpes-Côtes-d’Azur region of the south east on November 7th resulted in nine people arrested in France and one in Switzerland, on charges of suspected participation in a terrorist plot and communication with either Islamic State or al-Qaeda.
The suspects are reported to be between the ages of 18 and 65, with two of them siblings, however, none of the identities of the individuals were released. Of the individuals, several reportedly converted to Islam and one had previously been placed on a watchlist.
The raid was carried out by the police of the Antiterrorist Sub-Directorate (SDAT), the Interregional Direction of the Judicial Police of Marseilles and the General Directorate of Internal Security (DGSI).
Earlier in July, French police were focused on suspicious activity by a person in Switzerland using a Telegram network. The chief suspect, a 28-year-old Swiss Imam, was allegedly communicating with individuals in France, including with a 14-year-old boy who was “about to carry out the attack.”
The boy was arrested on June 20th and charged by an anti-terror judge, while the Swiss Imam was arrested in Switzerland during the terror raid on November 7th.
The city of Nice appeared to be the location of the planned attack, however, their plot was not fully developed according to a French official.
Nice was the site of the 2016 Bastille Day terror attack, when Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel plowed a 20-ton truck into a crowd during the celebration. The attack killed 87 and injured around 300 individuals. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.
Searches are still underway for more individuals in the Paris suburbs and in southeastern France bordering Switzerland and Italy.
After the 2015 terror Bataclan attack in Paris killed 130 people and wounded hundreds, France declared an immediate state of emergency. From the 2015 Paris attack to today, a total of 278 people have been killed in terrorist incidents in France.
Due to the increased terror threat, the French parliament on October 3rd approved an anti-terrorism bill, which ended the state of emergency imposed in 2015 but made many of the anti-terror policing powers from the state of emergency permanent.
Of these provisions include that authorities can search property without a warrant, put terrorist suspects under house arrest and shut down places of worship linked to terrorism. The new legislation has very limited judicial oversight so that the Interior Ministry can carry out these provisions without approval from a judge.
Since 2015, more than a million migrants and refugees have come from the Middle East and North Africa seeking refuge in Europe. Data shows that across Western Europe there has been a sharp increase in terror attacks from 2 attacks occurring in 2014 to 30 attacks in 2016. These attacks can be attributed toEurope’s large and poorly integrated Muslim population, proximity to unstable regions like the Middle East and North Africa, and the weak border security of the EU. The French government by enabling the anti-terrorism bill, will help mitigate some of these attacks, however, there also needs to be more focus on the prevention of the spread of jihad at a local level.
With the amount of terror attacks occurring in Europe, it is clear that the EU needs to tighten the grip on counter terrorism and immigration policy due to the increased terror threat in the recent years. France has begun to do this, although the severity of the counterterrorism measures, seen through the passage of the anti-terrorism act, is a reflection of the dire situation French security forces currently face.