Tag Archives: France

Egypt, France conduct joint military exercise off the Mediterranean

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Egypt and France began on Sunday a joint military exercise termed as the “Ramses-2016” in the coastal city of Alexandria along the Mediterranean.

According to Egyptian military, the joint venture off the coast of Egypt will go on for several weeks. This includes both air and naval forces training together to strengthen both military in combating threats.

“Both Navy and Air forces of Egypt and France have commenced a team exercise called the Ramses-2016 in Egypt and this joint venture will go on for several weeks off the coast of Alexandria (north) and in the Egyptian airspace,” read the press statement released by the Egyptian military.

 

The drill is aimed at “sharing our expertise with the Egyptian military, one of our main Middle East partners,” the French defense ministry said at the time.

France also had announced the maneuvers on Tuesday saying the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, which is being used to launch airstrikes on ISIS in Syria and Iraq, would also take part.

On December 19, the Charles de Gaulle carrier took command in the Gulf of the naval contingent operating as part of the international coalition fighting the jihadist IS group.

‘Ramses-2016’ wargames are held amid reports that western countries are gearing up for military intervention in next-door Libya

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France eyes strikes against ISIS in Syria – report

France is considering carrying out strikes against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Syria, French newspaper Le Monde reported on Saturday citing an anonymous “high-level source.”

President Francois Hollande will give a news conference on Monday to clarify the matter, but government officials are refusing to comment on the report yet.

The issue was allegedly discussed at a defense meeting with the president on Friday, and over the last few days unnamed top officials hinted to the French paper that the decision had been made.

In the coming months, an “informed source” said, reconnaissance missions could be conducted in Syria by the Dassault Mirage 2000 jet fighters based in Jordan.

Currently, France provides advice and arms to what it describes as “moderate” rebels in Syria.

Previously, French leaders ruled out the possibility of participating in the US-led coalition, despite having been the first state to join the US in their attacks on IS in Iraq.

Le Monde added that the change of policy could be caused by Europe’s refugee crisis, and the inability of pushing back Islamic State.

Some 3,000 people were killed in Syria by IS, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights’ report in June

France delivers three Rafale fighter-planes to Egypt

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France’s Dassault Aviation on Monday handed over three Rafale fighter jets to Egypt, the first sold abroad in the 14 years it has been building the versatile but hard-to-sell plane. Cairo signed an order for 24 Rafales in February

The three planes were handed over at a ceremony attended by Egypt’s ambassador to France Ehad Badawy and Egyptian air force general Ragga Khalil in southern France.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi signed the contract for 24 Rafales in Cairo in February, after a record six months of negotiation, and the delivery of the first three on Tuesday will break another record.

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They will take part in the ceremony to open the new Suez Canal, a project started a year ago on Sisi’s orders.

Badawy on Monday praised the plane’s versatility, useful to Egypt’s military government, which faces Islamist insurgency in Sinai, the west of its own territory and in neighbouring Libya.

Cairo has also ordered air-to-ground missiles from French company Sagem, part of Safran, to equip the Rafales.

 

FRANCE – Terrorisme : l’impossible protection de toutes les cibles potentielles

Avec l’arrestation, dimanche, d’un homme soupçonné d’avoir préparé des attentats contre des églises, le champ des cibles potentielles d’attaques jihadistes a été multiplié par 14. Est-il possible de toutes les protéger ?

Protéger toutes les églises de France, quand bien même le gouvernement le souhaiterait, est mission impossible. Bruno Duvic, l’animateur de la matinale de France Inter, ne s’est pas privé de le dire au Premier ministre, jeudi 23 avril. “Manuel Valls, le langage de vérité, c’est de dire qu’on ne peut pas mettre une patrouille de police devant tous les bâtiments potentiellement visés. On ne peut pas mettre une patrouille de police à la fois devant toutes les synagogues de France, devant toutes les églises, les musées, les grands médias, ça n’est pas possible, surtout dans un contexte où les policiers de Vigipirate sont déjà à flux tendu voire davantage.”

Le Premier ministre était venu faire la promotion du dispositif antiterroriste déjà renforcé en janvier. Face à lui, Bruno Duvic, n’en démord pas : le projet d’attentat déjoué dimanche 19 avril, qui devait initialement viser une église, complique singulièrement la tâche de protection des forces de l’ordre. On dénombre en effet près de 45 000 églises et cathédrales en France. Soit 13 fois plus que les 2 449 lieux de culte musulmans (selon le ministère de l’Intérieur en 2012), 300 synagogues et 717 écoles juives réunis, qui forment autant de lieux “sensibles” aujourd’hui protégés par les forces de l’ordre après les attaques, notamment, de Mohamed Merah, des frères Kouachi et d’Amédy Coulibaly.

“Pas plus d’hommes ?”, assène Duvic à son invité. “Il y a déjà beaucoup d’hommes et de femmes mobilisés sur le terrain”, répond prudemment le Premier ministre. Et d’ajouter : “Mais il faut aussi ne pas céder à la peur tout en maintenant de la vigilance.” La marge de manœuvre de Manuel Valls est de toute façon limitée : s’il venait au gouvernement l’idée de protéger les églises et les mosquées comme il le fait avec les écoles juives, par exemple, aux abords desquelles le ministre de l’Intérieur Bernard Cazeneuve avait annoncé le déploiement de 4 700 policiers et gendarmes le 12 janvier, cela nécessiterait près de 290 000 hommes.

Or, tous policiers nationaux (143 535 selon un rapport de la Cour des comptes publié en 2013), gendarmes (96 900 selon le même rapport) et policiers municipaux (près de 20 000 selon un décompte du ministère de l’Intérieur) confondus ne représentent que 260 000 agents. Mission impossible, donc, même s’ils se voyaient tous assigner cette mission.

Ne pas céder à la panique

Inquiet, le syndicat policier Alliance (droite) a d’ailleurs diffusé un communiqué pour avertir l’exécutif. Conscient de la “nécessité de renforcer le dispositif”, son secrétaire national pour l’Île-de-France Fabien Van Hemelryck, contacté par France 24, souligne que “l’effectif policier n’est pas extensible à l’infini”. Il demande “la fin des gardes statiques, à remplacer par des patrouilles dynamiques. Cela permettrait d’accroître notre zone de vigilance”, explique-t-il. “Si on avait tous été postés devant des portes dimanche, on n’aurait pas arrêté le suspect”, estime le syndicaliste.

L’Église catholique, de son côté, ne veut pas céder à la panique. “Nous ne souhaitons pas que la protection des lieux de culte catholiques soit renforcée”, confie Vincent Neymon, directeur de la communication de la Conférence épiscopale. “Cet événement isolé n’est pas révélateur d’un complot généralisé dirigé contre l’Église catholique. En outre, 178 églises et cathédrales sont déjà protégées.” Parmi les dizaines de lieux de culte catholiques concernés, la cathédrale Notre-Dame, le Sacré Cœur… Autant d’endroits très touristiques, très fréquentés, aussi importants pour leur valeur religieuse que patrimoniale. Pour Vincent Neymon, ce n’est pas tant l’Église qui est visée mais l’ “Occident”, à travers elle. Raison de plus pour laisser “dégonfler le ballon d’angoisse qui s’est créé”.

On Centenary of World War I, Europe Sees Modern Parallels

Members of historical societies stood under a shower of a million poppies, representing those killed in World War I, at a ceremony Monday at the Tank Museum in Bovington, England.

Members of historical societies stood under a shower of a million poppies, representing those killed in World War I, at a ceremony Monday at the Tank Museum in Bovington, England.

LONDON — With a dimming of the lights and ceremonies across this country and in Belgium, monarchs, princes, presidents and citizens commemorated on Monday the day 100 years ago when Britain entered World War I at the start of four years of carnage once called the war to end all wars.

Some took the moment to recall more modern crises in the Middle East and Europe that are rooted in the fighting between 1914 and 1918 that toppled empires and redrew the world map. Some dwelled on a vision of reconciliation among former foes.

“We were enemies more than once in the last century, and today we are friends and allies,” Prince William, the second in line to the British throne, told a ceremony in Belgium, referring to Germany and its allies in two world wars. At Westminster Abbey, prayers were said in English and German.

But today’s myriad wars haunted the commemorations, too.

“How can we remain neutral today when a people not far from Europe is fighting for their rights?” President François Hollande of France said in Belgium. “How can we remain neutral when a civilian airliner is brought down, when there is conflict in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza?”

A century ago, as hostilities loomed, Sir Edward Grey, the British foreign secretary, famously remarked, “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”

To echo those words, Prime Minister David Cameron urged Britons to extinguish the lights in their homes at 10 p.m. on Monday to leave a lone light or candle burning by 11 p.m. — the precise moment of the declaration of war on Germany.

In London, the lights went off at such landmarks as the Houses of Parliament and Tower Bridge over the River Thames. At Westminster Abbey, at a late-night ceremony attended by political leaders, a lone oil lamp at the tomb of the unknown soldier was extinguished at 11 p.m. by the Duchess of Cornwall, the former Camilla Parker-Bowles and wife of Prince Charles, the heir to the throne.

The fighting a century ago erupted after a series of interlocked events beginning with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, on June 28, 1914 — killings that set off a chain of events, driven by a complex web of alliances, that historians have described as Europe’s stumbling or sleepwalking into a cataclysmic conflict.

“Most were stumbling into the darkness, increasingly bound by the chains of their own and others’ making, their hope of avoiding war ever fading,” the Very Rev. Dr. John Hall, the dean of Westminster Abbey, said in a foreword to the order of service on Monday.

Many in Britain and elsewhere expected a quick end to the hostilities. But the war soon bogged down in trench warfare that consumed the energies and resources of nations at the cost of millions of lives.

Neutral at the beginning, the United States formally joined the war in 1917.

The writer H. G. Wells is often credited with coining the description of the conflict as “the war that will end war,” the title of an essay that became a jingoistic catchphrase, “the war to end all wars.”

As the conflict drew to a close, a more cynical view overtook that sentiment when David Lloyd George, the British prime minister at the time, is said to have remarked: “This war, like the next war, is a war to end war.”

The approach of the conflict in 1914 was commemorated on Sunday when Mr. Hollande and President Joachim Gauck of Germany embraced at a war memorial in the eastern French province of Alsace, near the frequently contested frontier between their nations. The occasion commemorated Germany’s declaration of war on France on Aug. 3, 1914, as German troops massed to invade neutral Belgium — the incursion that drew Britain into the war a day later.

No formal ceremonies were planned in Berlin, with German commemorations focused on Mr. Gauck’s attendance at ceremonies in lands once conquered by German soldiers. In Russia, President Vladimir V. Putin inaugurated a memorial in Moscow last week, and a museum is to open in St. Petersburg.

The scale of commemoration in Russia was unusual. Moscow usually focuses most of its commemorative efforts on World War II.

 NYTimes.com.

​Libya is now officially a failed state

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It is failed in the sense that it does not have a cohesive central government whose writ runs to every part of the country.

And of course it is failed due to the complete absence of the rule of law, and failed most of all by the West whose decision to embark on a disastrous military intervention in 2011, which led directly to the ousting and murder of former Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, was the catalyst for the disaster that has unfolded in the country since.

Recall the alacrity with which the West jumped aboard the Arab Spring after initially being completely wrong-footed by it when it first broke in Tunisia in late 2010 and immediately thereafter hit Egypt, resulting in the toppling of the Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

Both the Ben Ali dictatorship in Tunisia and the Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt had been Western clients, lavished with investment, aid, and trade deals even though their prisons were filled with pro-democracy activists and political dissidents. The hypocrisy involved here, you might think, would have shamed those same Western governments – the US, France, and the UK in particular – into non-interference in the face of what appeared to be a region-wide revolutionary movement from below.

But shame is not something that troubles policymakers in Western capitals. When another of their regional allies, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, found his government under pressure as the so-called Arab Spring arrived in Libya next, France, Britain, Italy, and the US performed a complete volte face and backed NATO airstrikes against Libyan military forces on the spurious grounds of protecting civilians.

In truth, Gaddafi was sacrificed on the altar of realpolitik, learning a harsh lesson when it comes to trusting states that had lavished his country with trade deals, oil contracts, and political rehabilitation after decades spent as a pariah. For all their rhetoric about supporting democracy and those struggling for democracy, in truth the only test of a government’s legitimacy in the eyes of the West is its willingness and ability to advance their economic and strategic interests.

Smoke billows from an area near Tripoli’s international airport as fighting between rival factions around the capital’s airport continues on July 24, 2014.

The key lesson to emerge from the Arab Spring, in fact, has been how adept the Western powers are when it comes to adapting to shifting conditions on the ground. The notion of Washington, London, or Paris being concerned with the protection of innocent human life and upholding the human and democratic rights of the people of the Arab world should by now have been so comprehensively refuted by their actions since the end of the First World War that only those drawing their arguments from a deep well of mendacity or ignorance would dare suggest otherwise.

Libya in 2014 has descended into an abyss of lawlessness of chaos and violence as a direct consequence of NATO’s intervention back in 2011. With the recent announcement by the British Foreign Office warning all British citizens in Libya to leave the country immediately due to the ramping up of violence between the various factions that have emerged from the chaos, the truth in this regard cannot longer be denied.

Libya’s value – the real reason it came in for intervention – is of course its considerable oil reserves, the largest in Africa estimated at around 47 billion barrels’ worth. Its proximity to European markets and the quality of its oil making it easier to refine only enhances its attraction to Western oil companies.

Most of Libya’s oil deposits are located in the east of the country, where opposition against the Gaddafi regime began and was strongest. The former Libyan leader had signed oil exploration contracts with a number of Western oil companies, part of the process of him opening Libya up to the West, and prior to mounting the NATO intervention that brought his government down guarantees were given by the rebels that those contracts would continue post-Gaddafi.

Three years later the country is in complete turmoil, riven with factionalism, gang violence, and the absence of a strong central government. This is the consequence of NATO’s military intervention, yet another staged by the West that can be categorized as disastrous.

Western colonialism and imperialism has never been more exposed as they have when it comes to Libya.

A leader who could once boast of a phone book containing the numbers of world leaders and royalty, who’d opened up his country for business with Western corporations and governments, Gaddafi was left to be slaughtered like an animal by an armed mob as he tried to flee his home town of Sirte during the fighting, the motorcade he was travelling in stopped by a NATO airstrike.

The Libya that once boasted the highest level of development of any African nation, where the standard of education, housing, infrastructure, and health stood as a beacon in a region that has long labored under the depredations and ravages of free market capitalism; the Libya that helped set up the African Union and invested billions in development projects throughout the African continent, working tirelessly for African unity – this Libya has been destroyed.

Why the Middle East’s borders will never be the same again

46by – Scott Anderson

Scott Anderson is a veteran war correspondent who has reported from Lebanon, Israel, Egypt and many other strife-torn countries. A frequent contributor to the New York Times Magazine, his work has also appeared in Vanity Fair and Esquire. His latest book is “Lawrence in Arabia.”

(CNN) — Many observers gazing upon the current bloodshed in the Middle East have wondered aloud if we are seeing the disintegration of the nation-state boundaries established in the region nearly a century ago. But the crises in Iraq and Syria have simply laid bare a phenomenon that has been under way for quite some time.

What’s more, this process is now almost certainly irreversible, and will lead to a radically different Middle Eastern map than we have known.

In the heady early days of the Arab Spring, many people imagined that the Arab world might finally be entering a period of greater democratization, one that would inevitably lead — so the thinking went — to greater social unity.

That didn’t happen. The “people’s revolution” in Egypt was subverted, and the fledgling democracy movement in Bahrain was crushed with Saudi military assistance. But more devastating than that is the ongoing fracturing of nations into their historical component parts.

The world may be focused on the rifts in Iraq between its Shiite, Sunni and Kurd communities — but the same “Balkanization” has already occurred in Libya, which is now effectively split into three de facto states. Almost surely next on the chopping block is Syria.

Syria’s savage civil war has divided the nation into a patchwork of government and rebel-held zones, and there is now talk within Bashar al-Assad‘s embattled regime of slicing off the Alawite-dominated western portions of Syria to create a more defendable mini-state.

READ MORE: Map of Iraq’s sectarian divide

Just how did we get here? To answer that, one would do well to look at a map of the region during the Ottoman Empire.

In order to keep the peace and hold together their fantastically diverse and far-flung realm, the Ottoman sultans devised a clever system known as the “millyet.” So long as they pledged ultimate allegiance to the sultan and paid their taxes, the empire’s various religious and ethnic communities were allowed to largely govern themselves.

It was hardly a trouble-free arrangement, but this system of autonomy was probably what enabled the weak Ottoman Empire, the proverbial “sick man of Europe,” to survive into the twentieth century.

That all ended in 1914, when the Ottomans joined forces with Germany and Austro-Hungary in World War I. To the rival empires of Great Britain and France, the Ottoman lands now became known as “the Great Loot,” the last great frontier for European control and economic exploitation.

Of course, Britain and France first had to win the war — and well into 1915, they displayed scant ability to do so. In desperation, the British forged a secret agreement with Emir Hussein, the ruler of the Hejaz region of western Arabia, to raise an Arab revolt against the Ottoman Turks. In return, Hussein and his rebels were promised independence for virtually the entire Arab world.

READ MORE: The terror group taking Iraq by storm

No sooner had Britain made the pact with Hussein, however, than it surreptitiously entered into negotiations with France. Under the terms of the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement, the future Arab independent nation was to be relegated to the wastelands of the Arabian Peninsula — oil hadn’t been discovered there yet — while Britain and France would take possession of most everything else. Continuing in this vein, Britain also penned the Balfour Declaration, encouraging Jewish emigration into the Palestine region of Syria, an initiative that would ultimately prove to be the catalyst for the creation of Israel.

This double-cross of the Arabs was not fully revealed until the postwar Paris Peace Conference, then put to paper in the 1920 San Remo Agreement. Despite the furious protestations of Arab nationalists, greater Syria was divided into four parts — Palestine, Trans-Jordan, Lebanon and modern-day Syria — with the British taking the first two, the French the latter.

Even more volatile, as events would soon prove, were British machinations in Iraq. In their first negotiations with Emir Hussein, the British had asked for “special administrative arrangements” in those southern regions of Mesopotamia where oil had been discovered. But by the war’s end, oil had also been discovered in the north and, with the promise of Arab independence long discarded, the British simply joined three of the Ottoman’s semi-autonomous regions together and called it a country.

Through their blithe hubris, British and French imperialists had built themselves a volcano and then sat atop it. For the next three decades, they managed to weather the periodic eruptions of Arab rage by propping up pliant local leaders or rushing in troops to quell the inevitable revolts.

But by the early 1950s, their sway in the region had collapsed along with their empires. Into the vacuum stepped a generation of ardently nationalist military dictatorships that would eventually stretch from Libya all the way to Iraq.

But how did this transmogrify into the chaos and dissolution we see in the region today? I think the answer lies in a subtler, more psychological, legacy of the “order” that was imposed by the European powers a century ago.

READ MORE: How Iraq crisis may redraw borders

Ever since that grand betrayal, the Arab world has tended to define itself more by what it is opposed to — colonialism, Zionism, Western political and cultural imperialism — than what it aspires to, and even if Arab leaders have capitalized on this culture of grievance to channel popular discontent away from their own misrule, it is a mindset that has become internalized.

In twenty-five years of covering conflict zones around the world, I’ve found that guerrillas or dissidents most everywhere can articulate what they are fighting for; in the Middle East, by contrast, it is almost always an articulation of what they are fighting against. One result, I believe, is that there’s little in the way of consensus going forward once the existing order of things — artificially-imposed or otherwise — has been swept aside.

Instead, a vacuum is created, and the “Arab street” fills it by turning to those allegiances that predated the object of their rage: their faith, their clans, their tribes. While the result is less devastating in a place with a strong national identity like Egypt — there, the lack of consensus simply means the “people’s revolution” can be gradually smothered — in an “artificial” nation like Iraq, a centrifugal force takes over that, once given full power, is almost impossible to reverse.

We are now at that point in Syria. Since none of its warring factions can be militarily defeated — and the various regional powers backing their respective proxies will see to that — the slaughter there will continue until the creation of de facto mini-nations.

In Iraq, Kurdistan is already independent in all but name, and has no reason to give it name lest its chief protector, Turkey, become alarmed. The only larger question is whether ISIS — the Sunni terror group that has taken Iraq by storm in recent weeks — will manage to consolidate its current hold in the center of the country and join it to the great swath of eastern Syria it controls. Perversely, there may soon come a time when both the Shiite-dominated regime in Baghdad and the Alawite-dominated one in Damascus both decide such a terror-state might be the best way to be rid of their Sunni enemies.

Surely the biggest surprise thus far has been the relative calm in Jordan, a nation cut from whole cloth by the European powers after World War I. Despite concerns that it too will fall into the abyss, Jordan might well be saved by the need for all its warring neighbors to have a “Switzerland” in the neighborhood.

What might explode next? Here, the old map of the Middle East actually offers some solace. We’re simply starting to run out of places that the European imperialists screwed up.

US flying manned intelligence missions over Nigeria in missing girls search, official says

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The U.S. military is flying manned missions over Nigeria in hopes of locating the hundreds of schoolgirls who were kidnapped by an Islamist extremist group last month, a senior official tells Fox News.

The official said the manned missions are intelligence and surveillance missions. At a press briefing Monday White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the U.S. had experts in a variety of areas, including reconnaissance and surveillance, working on the case of the missing girls. However he said he did not have a “catalog” of the specific resources the experts were using.

“They are actively involved in working with the Nigerian government to provide the advice and the expertise that they can provide to assist in that effort,” Carney said.

The information comes as a new video, believed to be from Boko Haram, the group behind the kidnappings, surfaced Monday showing more than 100 of the kidnapped Christian schoolgirls praying to Allah.

The video also features the Islamic terror group’s leader – who was reportedly negotiating with the government – saying he will hold the girls until imprisoned militants are freed.

When asked about the option of trading the girls for imprisoned militants, U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said Monday, that is up to Nigeria.

“As you know, Nigeria is in the lead. We are simply supporting their efforts. As you know also the United States’ policy is to deny kidnappers the benefits of their criminal acts including ransoms or concessions,” Psaki said at a press briefing.

The video is the first sighting of the abducted girls since more than 300 were taken April 14 from their school in the northern town of Chibok by Islamist militants. Although more than 50 girls escaped their captors and are now safe, at least 276 remain missing.

The search so far has centered on the Sambisa forest, with Nigerian troops being aided by advisers from the U.S., Britain and France.

Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren clarified the U.S. presence in Nigeria for reporters Monday, saying there are more than 50 U.S. military personnel and advisors based at the Nigerian Embassy to help “advise and assist” in the search for the missing girls. The teams have expertise in “communications, logistics, civil affairs, and intelligence,” Warren said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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France to unveil plan to fight Syrian jihadist threat

François Hollande and Laurent Fabius (second left and centre) with former hostages at a military air base near Paris.

François Hollande and Laurent Fabius (second left and centre) with former hostages at a military air base near Paris.

(Reuters) – France’s interior minister on Tuesday unveiled a raft of policies to stop its citizens joining the Syrian civil war, aiming to prevent young French Muslims becoming radicalized and posing a threat to their home country.

France, which has been a staunch opponent of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, estimates the number of its nationals directly or indirectly involved in the Syrian conflict at about 700 of which a third are fighting against the government.

President Francois Hollande has made clamping down on violent cells and self-radicalized operators planning domestic attacks a priority since a Toulouse-based al Qaeda-inspired gunman, Mohamed Merah, shot dead seven people in March 2012.

But with the Syrian conflict entering its fourth year, the government has increasingly come under criticism for failing to stop its nationals – some as young as 15 – from heading to Syria.

“France will take all measures to dissuade, prevent and punish those who are tempted to fight where they have no reason to be,” President Francois Hollande told reporters on Tuesday.

Highlighting Paris’ concerns, at the weekend, four French journalists who returned from Syria after being held by an al Qaeda-linked group, said some of their captors had been francophone.

Speaking on France 2 television before officially unveiling the measures to cabinet on Wednesday, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the new measures could go as far as stripping people of French nationality along the lines of new British legislation introduced last year.

Parents will be encouraged to signal suspicious behavior in their children through a dedicated hotline after which officials will immediately be sent to assess the situation.

“French Islam is not radical…what we need to do is prevent this behavior. Minors and teenagers are often fragile and can fall into the hands of preachers of hate and recruiters,” Cazeneuve said.

In total some 20 measures will be presented, with those not requiring new legislation being implemented in the coming days.

Cazeneuve also said minors would be prevented from leaving France without parental consent, and that the names of those identified as wanting to leave for jihad would be signaled to the European Union’s 27 other members.

French nationals who returned from Syria could now also automatically face criminal charges for being part of a terrorist organization, he said.

“This is a comprehensive plan to fight a phenomenon that is in sharp progression,” a government source said.

“The idea is to deal with the problem from when someone is in their room watching jihadi videos to the moment when they are taking the bus … to the Turkish-Syrian border.”

SOCIAL MEDIA BOOM

France – which has Europe’s largest Muslim population at about 5 million – has had broad success at dodging attacks in large part due to its water-tight security apparatus and some of Europe’s toughest anti-terror laws, although analysts say they need to be adapted in light of the social media boom.

Cazeneuve said the new measures would enhance surveillance of Islamist websites that recruit fighters and aim to block assets of those behind them. He said Paris would also push European partners to close down extremist sites.

Critics say Paris has until now turned a blind eye to its nationals fighting Assad, preferring that they be active in Syria than at home in France.

“Today, this strategy has led to the authorities being overwhelmed,” said David Thomson, author of The French Jihadists, a book published in January that traced the path of 19 jihadists who joined al Qaeda affiliates in Syria.

“They didn’t take this threat seriously and had the same mindset as the 1990s. The ideology of these youngsters is built on being anti-authority. In their eyes, the authorities are non-believers, so what they decide has to be fought.”

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Violence as thousands march in Rome against austerity

Demonstrators fight with policemen during a protest in downtown Rome April 12, 2014.

At least 80 people – both police and protesters – have been injured as street battles broke out in Rome, with rocks being flung and police deploying pepper spray. Thousands took to the street to march against austerity measures.

Blasts and sirens could be heard as a splinter group of masked protesters launched firecrackers, eggs and rocks at police, who defended themselves with shields. One protester had his hand blown off by a firecracker he was yet to throw. At least six people were arrested, police said.

The march started at roughly 14:00 from Porta Pia, with the crowd stating they were protesting in favor of affordable housing and plans for new labor regulations which would make firing and hiring easier.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is in the process of making mass economic reforms. Youth unemployment has risen to well over 40 percent.

“Renzi’s labour reforms will worsen the situation for workers without job security, hitting young people when they are already struggling. The rage of the people in the squares today is justified,” a 23 year old graduate from Modena named Federico Bicerni told Reuters.

“Unemployment levels are very high. For the time being people can survive thanks to family support…but this is very thin amount of reserves that families can spend to support their family members. At one point in time this could end and people will just be without anything. No job, no house, and no prospective retirement benefits,” Political Analyst Paolo Raffone told RT.

Austerity measures as such are extremely painful if they are not followed by some measures to support people,”
he said. Tens of thousands also marched in France simultaneously. Police stated that some 25,000 joined the protest, while social media estimates placed the figure closer to 100,000.

Protesters in Paris waved banners declaring that “When you are leftist you support employees,” in criticism of Hollande’s business-friendly reforms which are seemingly abandoning the ideals of the left.

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