Thursday, June 17, 2004

Big Fish

The AFP reports:
PARIS (AFP - 21:38) — Syrian authorities have extradited Saïd Arif, a "hardened Jihadi," to France where anti-terrorism specialists have called him a "big fish" with connexions to al-Qaeda.

According to French intelligence agencies, Arif maintained ties to so called "Chechen" networks, suspected of having planned one or more attacks in France.

He is "one of the most important (suspected terrorists) that we have caught for years," sources familiar with the case said on Thursday. "He's a big fish. He is very close to al-Qaeda circles among which he has some importance."

One judicial source said Arif is "close" to the Jordanian Abu Mussab al-Zarkawi. He is also "in close contact" with one one of the latter's closest lieutenants, says the Interior minister. al-Zarkawi is believed to be al-Qaeda's specialist in toxins and chemical poisons.

Arif, who was to be delivered to anti-terrorism magistrate Jean-Louis Bruguière for interrogation, was extradited with in hours of his detention by Syrian authorities as part of the investigation into the "Chechen networks."

This investigation, that began with the networks recruiting combatants for Chechnya, led to the dismantling of a suspected terrorist cell in the Paris region in La Corneuve and in Romainville (Seine-Saint-Denis).
See here for the Interior ministry's press release. See here, here and here for more on Judge Bruguière.

Nazi Graffiti Sprayed on French Mosque

The AFP also reports:
LILLE, France, June 17 (AFP) — A swastika and racist slogans extolling the Nazi genocide have been sprayed on the wall of a mosque in the northern French town of Lens, police said Thursday.

The graffiti in black paint read, "Death to Islamists," and "Hitler would have gassed you, long live the pure race SS881488." It was discovered at the weekend and has since been cleaned.

The regional Union for the Algerian Community said in a statement that it was "very perturbed at the resurgence of acts of intolerance, racism and xenophobia. Today it is the mosque at Lens that is paying the consequences."

There has been a wave of similar acts of vandalism at Muslim and Jewish sites in recent weeks in northern France.


Yet again from the AFP: Striking electrical workers blacked out Chirac's office!

Yep. They did. Staging wildcat actions, they blacked out the Eiffel tower, the Champs Elysées, the US and British embassies and several French ministries as well. This was to protest the proposed partial privatization of Electricité de France (EDF). On Tuesday there was a demonstration while others cut power to several cities and towns, including prime minister Raffarin's home.

Finance minister Sarkozy has stated his determination to press forward with the liberalization despite (er... rather, because of) the fact that it further damages Raffarin's position. The plan calls for allowing private ownership of 30% of EDF. EDF has 167,000 employees, revenues of €45 billion and either controls or has important stakes in several foreign energy companies.

Back in April, I blogged a police investigation into the EDF worker's council that had widened to include the Communist Party and an enormous labor union.

France Denies Negotiating Weapons Contract with Israel

Xinuanet reports that the Defense ministry has denied negotiating a weapons contract with Israel. Xinhuanet says Ha'aretz reported that France was preparing to sign contract worth $150 - $200 million during Eurostatory 2004 (14-18 June). Details of the deal released to the public indicate that Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) was to participate in the manufacture of the Eagle 1 drone by EADS (for a recent post relating to EADS, see here) and to be based on the Israel Defense Force version. That would have been the largest Franco-Israeli arms contract since France imposed an arms embargo on the Middle-East following the 1967 Six Day War.

"The contract doesn't exist," said a Defense ministry spokesman who did not rule out that IAI's services might still be retained for the project in the future.

Dictionnaire de l'Académie Française now online.

Web surfers can now search the first two volumes of the dictionary for free for words ranging alphabetically from A to moudre.

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