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France is on the front line of the terror threat posed by Isis in Europe.
More of its citizens have travelled to fight in the Middle East under the jihadi group’s black banners than from any other European nation. Schisms between disenfranchised Muslim communities and the rest of French society run deep.
Sitting at the borderless heart of the EU, France is exposed to plots hatched far from its territory. It is also squarely in the terror network’s sights, owing to its bombing of Isis in Iraq and Syria.
“We have disrupted a number of attacks in our territory,” said Bernard Bajolet, head of the Direction Générale de la Sécurité Intérieure (DGSI), the French domestic intelligence agency, earlier this month.
“But this doesn’t mean that we will be able all the time to disrupt such attacks,” he added, with unfortunate prescience.
This year had been one of terror in France, even before Friday’s carnage. Some of the attacks were foiled.
Charlie Hebdo and Ile-de-France attacks, January 2015. 20 dead
Saïd and Cherif Kouachi, two brothers, murdered 11 and wounded 11 more in an assault on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. After the targeted and carefully planned attack, they killed a French policeman outside the building and then fled, triggering a manhunt. After taking hostages, the pair were killed in Dammartin-en-Goële in a shootout with police. The brothers claimed allegiance to al-Qaeda. Saïd had trained with al-Qaeda’s Yemeni branch, AQAP, in 2011. In Paris, Amedy Coulibaly, a sometime associate of the Kouachi brothers, killed five and wounded 11 more in a co-ordinated attack that ended in a supermarket siege. He was killed by police. His wife, an accomplice, Hayat Boumeddiene, fled to join Isis in Syria.
Nice Jewish community centre attack, February
Moussa Coulibaly, 30, stabbed and wounded three soldiers guarding a Jewish community centre in Nice. Mr Coulibaly had been arrested the previous week in Istanbul because police there thought he was travelling to join Isis. He was deported back to France.
Villejuif church attack, April. 1 dead
Sid Ahmed Ghlam, 24, an Algerian national studying computer sciences in Paris, had planned to murder the congregations of two churches in a Parisian suburb. He killed a 33-year-old woman, Aurélie Châtelain, in her car but then accidentally shot himself in the leg. Police arrested him at the scene. His car was filled with automatic weapons. Accomplices were later arrested. Police say he had received instructions from Syria.
Air Products factory attack, June. 1 dead
Yassine Salhi, a French Muslim of north African descent, decapitated his former employer and tried to cause an explosion by driving his car into gas storage cylinders at an Air Products chemical factory in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, near Lyon. He placed Hervé Cornara’s head on railings outside the factory between two black banners. French authorities said Salhi had links to Isis. The attack happened at the same time as a wave of terror incidents around the Middle East, including the Sousse beach massacre in Tunisia.
Rhône military base attack, July
Four terror suspects, aged between 16 and 23, were arrested by police two days before they planned to attack the Fort Bear commando training base at Port-Vendres in the eastern Pyrenees. The youngest was released. French prosecutors say the other three had planned a rampage at the base, killing as many soldiers as they could before filming the beheading of the base’s commander. The ringleader, Djebril A, had served at the base as a naval signalman. At least one of the plotters had been in contact with Isis in Syria.
Paris concert hall attack, August
A Parisian resident in his 30s was arrested by police after being monitored by the DGSI for several weeks. He had been plotting to attack a crowded Parisian music venue or concert hall. A handgun was found in his apartment. The individual was under surveillance after travelling to Syria and training with Isis in Raqqa. He returned to France via Turkey, Poland and Holland. His identity was revealed after Spanish authorities received a tip from a captured jihadi.
Thalys train attack, August
Ayoub el-Khazzani, a 26-year-old Moroccan-born Spaniard, was tackled to the ground aboard a high-speed Amsterdam-Paris train by three Americans — two of whom were off-duty military personal — and a Briton. He had been carrying a Kalashnikov assault rifle, a knife, a pistol, 270 rounds of spare ammunition and a bottle of petrol. He was heard loading the weapon in a toilet cubicle and confronted when he emerged. Two people were injured but there were no fatalities.
Toulon naval base attack, October
Hakim Marnissi, a 25-year-old native of Toulon, was arrested by police in the early stages of a suspected plot to abduct and murder a sailor at the French navy’s headquarters. He was arrested after receiving a black hood and a knife in the post. He had been monitored by the DGSI after posting messages in support of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. He had been in contact with Isis in Syria.