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February 19, 2018

France attacks probe recommends intelligence overhaul

France attacks probe recommends intelligence overhaul
French soldiers patrol under the Eiffel tower in Paris in November 2015, as part of security measures set following a wave of terror attacks - By: AFP Joel Saget

 

The attacks which rocked Paris on November 13, 2015, were the deadliest the country had ever experienced AFP
The attacks which rocked Paris on November 13, 2015, were the deadliest the country had ever experienced

Paris (AFP) - A French inquiry into the terror attacks that rocked Paris in 2015 on Tuesday recommended a fusion of the country's intelligence services after the "global failure" of the country's myriad agencies.

The parliamentary inquiry was set up in February to probe possible security failings in the run-up to two major terror attacks in Paris in 2015 that left 147 people dead.

"The two big intelligence bosses admitted during their hearings that the 2015 attacks represent a 'global intelligence failure'," said Socialist lawmaker Sebastien Pietrasanta.

France currently has six different intelligence units answering to the interior, defence and economy ministries.

After 200 hours of hearings, lawmakers found that the different agencies had struggled to communicate about known Islamists who had either been under surveillance, in prison or had their phones tapped at some point before carrying out attacks.

Amedy Coulibaly, who killed four people at this Jewish supermarket in Paris during a wave of attacks in January 2015, was a known radical and repeat offender AFP / Joel Saget
Amedy Coulibaly, who killed four people at this Jewish supermarket in Paris during a wave of attacks in January 2015, was a known radical and repeat offender

The president of the commission of inquiry, former judge Georges Fenech, said that the barriers between the different intelligence services led to the surveillance of Charlie Hebdo attacker Said Kouachi being lifted when he moved from Paris to the north-eastern city of Reims.

The next time he was heard of was when he and his brother Cherif opened fire at the satirical weekly in Paris on January 7, killing 12 people.

Two days later, Amedy Coulibaly, who met Cherif in prison, took shoppers hostage at a Jewish supermarket, killing four people. He also shot dead a policewoman in Paris.

Justice Minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas said during his hearing that Coulibaly -- a known radical and repeat offender -- represented intelligence failings within the prison system, having been released from custody without being placed under surveillance.

The French system of judicial supervision, whereby terror suspects not deemed dangerous enough to be remanded in custody are instead ordered to report regularly to the police, also contained "weaknesses", said Pietrasanta.

French lawmaker Georges Fenech (left) - who heads the parliamentary inquiry into the 2015 terror attacks - has recommended the establishment of a single "national anti-terrorism agency" AFP / Alain Jocard
French lawmaker Georges Fenech (left) - who heads the parliamentary inquiry into the 2015 terror attacks - has recommended the establishment of a single "national anti-terrorism agency"

Samy Amimour, who was involved in the attack on the Bataclan concert hall on November 13, when a team of jihadists killed 130 across Paris nightspots, was able to travel to Syria in 2013 despite a ban on leaving France.

The lawmakers heard from an anti-terrorism judge that terrorists were subject to the same level of surveillance as small-time crooks who peddle marijuana when released from prison under court supervision.

- 'Our country was not ready'-

Fenech recommended the establishment of a single "national anti-terrorism agency" in a country which remains a prime target for Islamic State attacks.

"Faced with the threat of international terrorism we need to be much more ambitious... in terms of intelligence," he said.

The inquiry found that the state of emergency imposed after the attacks and deployment of thousands of troops in the streets had only a "limited impact" on security AFP / Bertrand Guay
The inquiry found that the state of emergency imposed after the attacks and deployment of thousands of troops in the streets had only a "limited impact" on security

"Our country was not ready, now we must get ready," he told AFP.

Pietrasanta said that the intervention of security forces on the night of November 13 had been "fast, effective and showed they were capable of working together."

However, he questioned the merits of having three different specialised units, the paramilitary intervention group GIGN, the police unit RAID and another elite police force specialising in hostage situations, the BRI.

Pietrasanta said that even though there had been threats made against the Bataclan concert hall, where 90 people were massacred, the attack there could not have been avoided.

"Thwarting the attacks would have presumed that investigators and intelligence agents had kept in mind all the targets mentioned by terrorists during questioning," he said.

The commission was formed at the request of the conservative opposition Republicans party, to examine the resources put in place by the state to fight terrorism following the January 2015 attacks.

The inquiry also found that a state of emergency imposed after the attacks and deployment of thousands of troops to patrol the streets had only a "limited impact" on security.

"The state of emergency had an impact but it seemed to quickly diminish," Socialist lawmaker Sebastien Pietrasanta said of the measure, which is still in place nearly eight months later.

The inquiry also questioned the "real added value" of Operation Sentinelle, under which thousands of soldiers were deployed to protect schools, synagogues, department stores and other sensitive sites.

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