“How is it possible that an extremist, known to the security services, can be out there without being arrested?
Our Paris correspondent Giovanni Magi put that question to ean-François Daguzan, a terrorism expert and Senior Fellow with France’s Foundation for Strategic Research.”
“There are two different kinds of problems in a case like this: the first is the limitations of the French intelligence and security services, who can’t track everyone who’s bent on Jihad. Going to Pakistan and to Afghanistan is not in itself a crime.
“The second (problem) is a legal one: if someone “declares a Jihad” that is not against the law, so no offence has been committed. The person needs to do something, or start to do something (illegal). You can’t stop someone if it is just what they are thinking of doing. And the big difficulty is how you detect this, when there are no obvious signs that someone is going to follow through and act.
“You have to remember that there has not been an attack in France since 1995, so the authorities have done a good job. The various intelligence chiefs have said they have eliminated two or three terrorist cells each year. That means they are efficient.”
“Does al-Qaeda still exist as a formal structured organisation, is it changing, and how?”
“I don’t really believe al-Qaeda does have a proper structure, but I think it is more like a franchise model with people reacting to proclamations. In any case their actions are always dictated by the environment in which they operate, and the leaders don’t always know that that environment is. From now on terrorist cells will operate in very tight manner, like a family, and you see that with this young man, there was him and it seems his brother. How do you infiltrate a family cell? It’s extremely difficult.
“Often we’re in what the Americans call a “Lone Wolf” situation, that is a person who is self-recruiting and who acts alone.
“You’ll notice that al-Qaeda’s claims are always made after the fact, sometimes much later, because they have to find out if it was real jihadists responsible for an attack.”
“Mohammed Merah had a big arsenal of weapons, is it as easy is that to buy guns in France?”
“This is a real problem, and it’s become worse over the last 10 years. In urban hotspots, in the suburbs, weapons are available, particularly Kalashnikovs and handguns. It’s a real epidemic.
“This illegal trade in small arms originated in the Balkans, from the wars in the former Yugoslavia, and the networks have become very organised. For a few hundred euros you can buy a gun. We’re in a situation where even a petty criminal can arm themselves cheaply.”