French authorities thwarted two Islamist plots in 2020 though five attacks weren’t prevented
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Authorities foiled two Islamist plots last year, France’s top counter-terrorism official has said. The country suffered five high-profile terrorist attacks in 2020, including the murder of Samuel Paty and the stabbing in Nice.
“Two Sunni Islamist terrorist attacks were thwarted in 2020,” National Coordinator for Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism Laurent Nunez told Europe 1 radio station, adding that 33 Islamist terrorist plots had been foiled in France since 2017.
This suggests the number of prevented attacks in 2020 was smaller than the number of terrorist attacks that had occurred.
On April 4, a knifeman killed two people and wounded five in Romans-sur-Isere in the southeastern part of the country. A few weeks later, a terrorist rammed his vehicle into police officers outside Paris, injuring three. Both incidents took place in the middle a nationwide lockdown against Covid-19.
In September, a man stabbed two people outside the former Paris office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which had published cartoons of Prophet Mohammed. On October 16, a terrorist of Chechen origin beheaded teacher Samuel Paty for having shown his class a cartoon of Mohammed during a lesson on freedom of speech. Several weeks later, three people were killed in a stabbing attack inside a Catholic church in Nice.
These attacks prompted the government to crack down on mosques and Muslim NGOs suspected of promoting radical views. Nunez said Islamist terrorism remains a “priority threat” that is growing “increasingly difficult to detect.” He explained that the attacks coming from abroad are “less likely” because Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) has become “very weak” in the Middle East.
“But we stay extremely vigilant. Islamic State is reorganizing itself to act in a clandestine manner.”
Nunez said five attacks by far-right groups were thwarted since 2017, and he is concerned about the “rise of [white] supremacists and survivalists.”
Last month, France’s Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin thanked police for busting a cell of “violent ultra-left activists” who were suspected of planning terrorist actions.