The head of France’s intelligence agency has called on his government to allocate resources to the surveillance of “far right” organisations, warning the country could be on the verge of civil war thanks to public unrest over the handling of Islamic terrorism.
Fielding questions behind closed doors from the Parliamentary Select Committee inquiry into the Paris attacks in November 2015, the transcript of which has today been released, Patrick Calvar, the head of the Directorate General of Internal Security (RPS) explained that it was not just an escalation of the terrorists’ capabilities he feared, but also the subsequent response from what he termed the “far right”.
“We must absolutely not yield [to terrorism],” he told the Committee on 24 May.
“I think we will win against terrorism; I am, however, more concerned about the radicalisation of society and the basic movement that drives it. That’s what worries me when I talk with my European colleagues: we will have, at one time or another, to provide resources to deal with other extremist groups because confrontation is inevitable.”
Asked to clarify whether by “extremist groups” he meant the extreme right and left, Mr. Calvar replied: ”The far left is another matter. You will have a confrontation between the far right and the Muslim world – not the Islamists, but the Muslim world.”
It is clear that Mr. Calvar sees the right wing response to Islamic terrorism being as much of a problem as the terrorism itself, and is determined to persuade the government to share his view.
The comments made at the inquiry follow remarks he made earlier in May before the National Defence Committee, in which he again warned of a rise in nationalism and asked for more resources to police community groups dedicated to fighting Islam.
“All of Europe is in danger of rising extremism so we are, domestically, trying to put in place the resources to watch far right groups who are waiting for confrontation,” he told Parliamentarians.
“You’ll recall that I like to use direct language; well, I think a confrontation will take place.
“If another attack or two occur, it will happen. It is therefore down to us to anticipate and confound all those groups who would, at some point, spark clashes between communities.
“The temptations of populism, border closures, the inability of Europe to give a joint response, failure to adopt legislation applicable everywhere; we face enormous problems. And I note, increasingly, a tendency to turn inward.”
A police source has told French paper L’Express that Mr. Calvar has made similar remarks when talking to policing organisations. “Calvar fears a new terrorist attack, as it would prove that the state’s resources are not adequate [to prevent terrorism],” the source said. Mr. Calvar clearly believes such an event would lead to vigilantism by French patriots.
“With the rise of the Islamist risk, we have focused our surveillance on the jihadists in recent years. We have made less effort to watch the far right,” the source noted.
But Mr. Calvar acknowledges that Islamic terrorism is the major threat to French security, and has warned of that risk increasing as the terrorists gain access to superior technology.
Islamic terrorists have long tried to construct dirty bombs using medical radioactive products, and have been attempting to develop ricin attacks to instil fear and panic into Western nations, he explained. But the fall of Saddam Hussein and the Syrian civil war has put advanced weapons into the hands of terrorists.
“If given the opportunity, they will export these weapons,” he warned.
“The real challenge for them is to bring them here, especially because of the dangerousness of the products in question. So for now, they continue to use more basic attacks. [But] I’m sure they’ll move beyond the stage of bombs and car bombs, and therefore increase their power.
“They will eventually train fighters whose mission it is to organise terrorist attacks without the use of suicide devices. For this, they need bombs [capable of remote detonation] and the ability to organise the logistics, that is to say, to settle in our territory and acquire the products needed.”