Country Reports on Terrorism 2015

An exodus of people from areas controlled by Islamic State is ongoing. (© AP Images)

The Country Reports on Terrorism are submitted in compliance with Title 22 of the United States Code, Section 2656f (the “Act”), which requires the Department of State to provide to Congress a full and complete annual report on terrorism for those countries and groups meeting the criteria of the Act.

From Chapter 1 ( Strategic Assessment) of the Report:  The global terrorist threat continued to evolve rapidly in 2015, becoming increasingly decentralized and diffuse. Terrorist groups continued to exploit an absence of credible and effective state institutions, where avenues for free and peaceful expression of opinion were blocked, justice systems lacked credibility, and where security force abuses and government corruption went unchecked.

02 June 2016 Special Briefing by Acting Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Justin Siberell  Country Reports on Terrorism 2015

Justin Siberell, Acting Coordinator of Counterterrorism, DoS
Justin Siberell, Acting Coordinator of Counterterrorism, DoS

In 2015, the United States faced a dynamic and evolving terrorist threat environment. The international community made important progress in degrading terrorist safe havens – in particular, a sizeable reduction in the amount of territory held by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, in Iraq and Syria, as well as the finances and foreign terrorist fighters available to it. At the same time, however, instability in key regions of the world, along with weak or nonexistent governance, sectarian conflict, and porous borders continue to provide terrorist groups like ISIL the opportunity to extend their reach, terrorize civilians, and attract and mobilize new recruits.

Although terrorist attacks took place in 92 countries in 2015, they were heavily concentrated geographically, as they have been for the last – past several years. More than 55 percent of all attacks took place in five countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Nigeria. And 74 percent of all deaths due to terrorist attacks took place in five countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria, and Pakistan.


Report for FRANCE

Overview: France confronted serious terrorism threats in 2015, including the mounting challenge of foreign terrorist fighters. France worked closely with the United States on counterterrorism efforts. French government agencies collaborated with their U.S. counterparts to exchange and evaluate terrorist-related information and strove to foster closer regional and international security cooperation. France’s security apparatus and legislation provide broad authorities to security services to prevent terrorist attacks. France’s military leads or participates in counterterrorism operations worldwide, such as Operation Barkhane (headquartered in Chad), with special emphasis on the Francophone countries in the Sahel and their neighbors, most notably Mali.

France experienced multiple attacks in 2015, the most serious being the coordinated November 13 attacks in and around Paris that killed 130 victims and injured 413, according to official accounts. Earlier in the year, the January 7 to 9 attacks on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and the Hyper Cacher (Jewish kosher grocery), and related murder of a policewoman, killed 17 victims.

The Government of France remained on high alert during 2015 for attacks against its interests in France and worldwide, and has taken steps to counter the potential threat posed by its nationals traveling abroad to engage in terrorist activity. The return of French nationals who joined groups fighting in Syria and Iraq is a major and increasing threat. On December 15, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve estimated that 1,800 French citizens or French residents were linked to fighting among violent extremist groups in Syria and Iraq. Of them, Cazeneuve estimated 600 were in Iraq and Syria, 144 had died, 250 returned to France, more than 500 were preparing to depart, and the remainder were in transit.

France is a leading member of the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL); participates fully in multilateral counterterrorism fora; and has taken decisive domestic action to restrict terrorism financing and to limit the flow of foreign terrorist fighters. France has also conducted Counter ISIL air strikes in Iraq and in Syria, and has provided training and capacity-building assistance to security forces in Iraq. France deployed its lone aircraft carrier to the eastern Mediterranean and Persian Gulf to conduct Counter ISIL operations air strikes.

2015 Terrorist Incidents: France experienced multiple attacks in 2015:

  • On January 7-9, three French attackers killed a total of 17 people in three attacks in and around Paris. On January 7, brothers Saïd and Cherif Kouachi killed 12 people at the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper. On January 8, Amedy Coulibaly killed a traffic policewoman in the Parisian suburb of Montrouge. On January 9, Coulibaly took hostages at Hyper Cacher, a kosher supermarket on the eastern edge of Paris, killing four before being killed by French police. After a nationwide manhunt, French police killed the Kouachi brothers in a standoff in a factory in Dammartin-en-Goële, north of Paris, on January 9.
  • On April 19, Algerian student Sid Ahmed Glam, known to French security services for radical views, was plotting to attack a church in Villejuif, a Paris suburb. He shot and wounded himself before executing his plan. Glam is accused of having killed another person around this time.
  • On June 26, Frenchman Yassin Salhi beheaded his supervisor in what French prosecutors said was an ISIL-inspired attack at an industrial site in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, near Lyon. Salhi committed suicide in his prison cell December 22, according to a French deputy prosecutor.
  • On August 21, heavily armed Moroccan national Ayoub el-Khazzani opened fire on the carriage of a Thalys train from Amsterdam to Paris. Passengers on board the train foiled his attack. Two American citizens (one a dual French-American citizen) were seriously injured during the incident.
  • On November 13, French and Belgian nationals launched a series of attacks that killed 130 victims in and around Paris. Terrorists working in three coordinated teams attacked the Bataclan concert hall, the Stade de France, and restaurant terraces in four locations in the 10th and 11th arrondissements of Paris. Seven of the attackers died in clashes with police or by detonating suicide vests during the attacks. On November 18, police stormed a safe house in Saint-Denis, killing three, including the alleged attack planner Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian citizen. Salah Abdeslam, a French citizen and brother of November 13 suicide bomber Brahim Abdeslam, remained at large at the end of 2015; he was apprehended in March 2016.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: France has a system of non-jury courts for terrorism trials and a broad definition of what is considered a terrorist offense – the so-called “association of wrongdoers” offense – which allows it to cast a wide net and imprison a broad range of suspects. Under French law, foreigners can be deported if they are believed to pose a serious threat to public order. After the November 13 attacks, the French Parliament voted to extend a national state of emergency (including, among other measures, reducing judicial and procedural restraints on arrests and other police actions for counterterrorism purposes).

A law enacted on July 24, 2015, codified and expanded government surveillance measures aimed at terrorism and other criminal offenses. A 2014 law took steps to counter the threat of foreign terrorist fighters with three key objectives: to prevent people from leaving the territory when there are reasons to believe that they intend to engage in illicit terrorist activities abroad; to counter online propaganda by blocking websites advocating terrorism (the law calls that blocking be carried out under judicial supervision to avoid infringement on the freedom of speech); and to criminalize individual preparation of acts of terrorism.

France’s main counterterrorism apparatus is its Direction Générale de la Sécurité Intérieure (DGSI) tasked with counter-espionage, counterterrorism, and the surveillance of potential threats on French territory, along with economic protection issues including organized crime and corporate espionage.

France has two national security forces: the General Directorate of National Police (DGPN) and the Directorate General of the National Gendarmerie (DGGN), both subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior. (The DGGN is part of the Defense Ministry but the Interior Ministry manages its policing functions.) The DGPN is responsible for civil law enforcement and criminal investigations in cities and large towns and is staffed with approximately 150,000 personnel. The DGSI combines law enforcement capabilities with domestic intelligence gathering.

In general, France has advanced law enforcement capacity to combat terrorism and sufficient information sharing at the domestic level. In the aftermath of the November 13 attacks, Interior Minister Cazeneuve renewed French commitments to push for establishment of French and European Passenger Name Record databases for travelers, to facilitate better EU-wide information sharing and Schengen-wide border security, and to combat arms trafficking in the Balkans.

On December 1, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the government had foiled or disrupted “five or six” other terrorist attacks during the year: for example, in early June French police disrupted a four-person cell of French individuals with links to Syria plotting to attack military installations in southern France.

On December 15, Interior Minister Cazeneuve said police had carried out 2,700 counterterrorism raids across the country under emergency powers following the November 13 attacks. A total of 334 people were arrested, of whom 287 were placed in custody for questioning. The raids led to the seizure of 431 weapons, including 41 heavy weapons.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: France is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). France also participates as a Cooperating and Supporting Nation (COSUN) to the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force, and an Observer to the Financial Action Task Force of Latin America, the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism, and the Middle East and North Africa Financial Task Force, all of which are FATF-style regional bodies. France’s financial intelligence unit is a member of the Egmont Group and member of the Anti-Money Laundering Liaison Committee of the Franc Zone.

Following the January 2015 attacks in Paris, the French government announced eight new measures to combat terrorism financing, some of which have since been implemented (a limit on cash payments went into effect on September 1) and others go into effect in early 2016. Some of the measures transpose into French law the Fourth European Directive on Anti-Money Laundering (e.g., tighter regulations on prepaid cards). The objectives of the measures are to improve domestic information sharing, limit the size and availability of anonymous transactions, improve the tracking of suspicious transactions, enhance due diligence checks on certain transactions, and bolster the capacity to freeze assets (e.g., by extending covered assets to include vehicles).

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes:

Countering Violent Extremism: The French Council of Ministers promulgated a four-point plan to counter violent extremism and a national action plan on “de-radicalization” in 2014. A national-level appointed official, a prefect, is charged with managing national efforts to counter violent extremism. France considers its integration programs for all French citizens and residents a major tool in countering radicalization and violent extremism. Many of these programs target disenfranchised communities and new immigrants.

The Ministry of Education works to instill “universal values” in all French pupils, regardless of ethnic origin or country of birth. Ministry regulations mandate that all French public schools teach civic education, and that all students attend school until age 16. On January 22, the Education Ministry announced a new effort to improve civic education and integrative efforts in the wake of the January 7-9 terrorist attacks. The government also offers adult vocational training for older immigrants and minorities who have never attended French schools. The Interior Ministry plays a significant role in countering radicalization to violence by increased police presence in disenfranchised areas, neighborhoods, and regions with high criminality and juvenile delinquency rates. The Prime Minister’s office managed an anti-violent extremism counter-messaging campaign. In September, the French and Moroccan governments announced that as many as 50 French imams per year would study the “values of openness and tolerance’ at the King Mohammed VI Institute in Rabat.

The Ministry of Justice implements rehabilitation and reintegration programs for former criminals. Prison radicalization was a major concern and subject of independent and state-sponsored research and reporting in 2015, with many calls to increase the number of Muslim chaplains employed by the French penitentiary system, currently around 195, according to civic leaders.

According to the Interior Ministry, a toll-free hotline implemented in 2014 for families of radicalized citizens has received more than 3,000 calls since its inception.

International and Regional Cooperation: France is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum, and a founding member of the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law, which is a GCTF-inspired institution devoted to rule of law-based training. Sworn in in 2013, France’s Jean Paul Laborde remained the Executive Director of the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate. France played a strong role on the UN 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida Sanctions Committee.

In an effort to increase its engagement on CVE issues, France provided funding to the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund, a public-private partnership to provide community-based organizations with grants to implement CVE projects at the local level. In regional organizations, France participated in the drafting of the European Council’s Counterterrorism Strategy action plan, and helped create and implement NATO’s new Strategic Concept and the Lisbon Summit Declaration, both of which include major counterterrorism measures for member states. Through the OSCE, France engaged in new measures to counter transnational threats, including terrorism. France participated in the G-7’s Roma-Lyon Group, and pursued practical projects in counterterrorism and other areas.

The Government of France undertook joint counterterrorism operations with countries including the Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK. France also played an active role in both bilateral and EU efforts to support counterterrorism capacity building in other countries.