Terrorist who planned bombing of Paris IDF event caught

French head of counterespionage agency says the man was arrested in Egypt and extradited to France, says threat of attack ‘has never been as high.’

Terrorist 311 (photo credit: Archives)
Terrorist 311
(photo credit: Archives)
A terrorist who planned to bomb an IDF fundraising event in Paris was arrested in Egypt and extradited to France, Bernard Squarcini, the head of the French counter-espionage and counter-terrorism intelligence agency, said in an interview released Saturday.
The event took place in March and was attended by about 1,500 people. The IDF representative was OC Navy V.-Adm. Eliezer Marom. Last year, the IDF representative was the military attaché in Washington, Maj.-Gen. Gadi Shamni.
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Defense officials said that Israel was not aware at the time of the IDF fund-raiser that a terrorist had been recruited to bomb the event.
Israel has been updated by French intelligence services regarding the arrest of the suspected terrorist – who has Tunisian citizenship, speaks fluent French and is believed to have been affiliated with al-Qaida.
“A lot of the Jews in Paris are of Tunisian origin,” a senior Israeli defense official said. “This is likely the reason a Tunisian was chosen,” as he could more easily infiltrate the event, the official continued.
Although he did not specify when the arrest had occurred, Squarcini said that the risk of a terrorist attack is now as high as it was in 1995, before the attacks on the Paris subway by Algerian Islamic extremists that killed eight and wounded hundreds.
Squarcini told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper that France’s history as a colonial master in North Africa, its military presence in Afghanistan and a proposal aimed at banning fully-covering veils in public all make the country a prime target for certain radical Islamist groups.
“Objectively, there are reasons for worry. The threat has never been as high” as now, the interview quotes Squarcini as saying. “We foil an average of two [planned] attacks a year, but one day or another, we’re going to get hit.”
Squarcini said the threat is threefold, coming from an Algerian insurgent group that has targeted French interests in the region in the past and allied itself with al-Qaida several years ago – becoming the international terrorist network’s North African affiliate – as well as radical French converts to Islam and French nationals who have trained with extremist groups in Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia.
“All [such] scenarios are possible,” Squarcini said.
He added that before the 1995 Paris subway attacks, the risk came solely from insurgent groups from France’s former colony, Algeria.
One such group, the Armed Islamic Group, claimed responsibility for those attacks.
Next week, the Senate, the upper house of the French parliament, will vote on a bill that would ban the wearing of burqas or niqabs, fully-covering Islamic veils, in public places in France.
The proposal, which was overwhelmingly approved in the lower house of the parliament in July, drew the indignation of al-Qaida’s No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahri, who said the drive to ban the veil amounted to discrimination against Muslim women.
France’s terror alert level remains at red, the second-highest rank out of four.
AP contributed to this report.