The French army is currently investigating 50 cases of “radicalisation” in its ranks. A new report from the Directorate for Protection of Security and Defence (DPSD) says the threat of Islamic terrorism within the army is growing.
The report stated that the first step to prevent cases of radicalisation in the French army is to increase vigilance in the recruitment process. The 87 staff members of the National Defence Centre Clearances (CNHD) check through the profiles of would-be soldiers.
According to General Jean-Francois Hogard, Director of Protection and Defence Security (DPSD), 92 per cent of candidates are judged not to pose a threat while eight per cent are deemed “unfavourable”. He described the CNHD as “the first brick in combating terrorism”.
The report noted that what is more difficult for the DPSD is identifying radicalisation in serving soldiers. According to General Hogard there are 50 “priority” cases of radicalisation for the DPSD to investigate, and that this number is “constantly evolving”.
The general stated, however, that the processing of reports of extremism had to be done carefully so as not to stigmatise extremely devout Muslims. He said it “must avoid stigmatising certain people, otherwise we risk pushing them into the arms of the enemy.
“External signs like the [Islamic] beard, refusing to talk to women etc., you have to distinguish real cases of radicalisation and seek to limit the effects of stigma that undermine the cohesion needed by armies.”
The report said France is not the only country with concerns over radicalisation in its ranks, noting that Germany and Belgium also face this problem.
In April, a military counterintelligence report claimed up to 29 former soldiers from the German army have travelled to Iraq or Syria to fight with Islamic State. Germany’s military currently has 65 open cases against suspected Islamic extremists within its ranks. The country’s defence ministry called for better screening of recruits amid fears Islamic extremists could be joining the Bundeswehr in order to get military training.
In May, Belgium’s defence minister, Steven Vandeput, confirmed that the country’s intelligence services currently have 60 serving soldiers under surveillance. Mr Vandeput revealed in Belgium’s parliament that all “have been identified as radicalised Muslims”.