Despite maintaining the deployment of legions of soldiers on the streets of French cities, a senior defence official has admitted the threat hasn’t diminished – and isn’t going away anytime soon.
Speaking to English-language news service theLocal.fr, an anonymous official has given a bleak picture of the present security situation in France, detailing the huge number of dedicated, professional killers in France who like the Charlie Hebdo killers have the patience to lay low for years before committing acts of violence. He said there were up to four thousand people at large in France who were known to have “evil intentions”, and of that there was a hard-core of roughly 200 “pros, not drop-outs” who had recently returned from the Islamic State with military training.
Because the operatives were willing and able to out-wait the capacity of the state to dedicate scarce resources to watching them, “the threat is permanent”. The official remarked on the constant load placed on the French security services by the presence of foreign terrorist interests in the country, saying: “Not one day goes by without an alert, the discovery of a network trying to send people to Syria or Iraq, or an intervention [by the security services]… The number of targets has exploded”.
The French prime minister has already admitted the scale of the potential problem: “The problem is not to know if there will be a new attack, it is to know when and where.”
A counter-terrorism expert, also speaking on the condition of anonymity spoke of the ruthlessness of those who had returned from waging jihad for the Islamic State, noting: “They have lost all inhibitions about violence”. He also expressed concern the sudden success of the Islamic State could increase the brutal violence and scale of attacks seen on the streets of Europe.
Terrorist groups rely on the enormous publicity generated by their violent acts to raise their profile, gather recruits, and solicit donations to their cause. The spectacular way the Islamic State, with it’s easy to digest messages and acts of extreme violence, has captured the media narrative has clearly upset Al-Qaeda, who have already launched a counter-propaganda campaign to regain some of the limelight.
The official believes this rivalry between Islamist groups could easily spill over in Europe, remarking: “Al-Qaeda needs to restore its prestige and will try to compete with IS with complex and major actions”.