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France Says Extremists Are Enlisting Its Citizens

Under new French anti-terror laws, closed-circuit television displays would be expanded to permit surveillance of private venues, such as synagogues.
Under new French anti-terror laws, closed-circuit television displays would be expanded to permit surveillance of private venues, such as synagogues. (By Michel Euler -- Associated Press)

Larrive said that Sarkozy was "impressed by the ability of the U.K. authorities after the tragedy in July to identify the people who committed this act, and he decided to enhance French video laws." British police drew on subway cameras that recorded images of the bombers.

The French proposal would step up video surveillance in airports and train stations and for the first time permit it at private venues that could be targets, such as synagogues, Larrive said.

French officials traced their investigation of the terrorist recruiting and training network to the July arrests of three men on charges of armed robbery and racketeering. They soon discovered that the men were tied to the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, known by its French acronym GSPC, the main armed Islamic movement in Algeria, a former French colony.

That led to the arrest of a top GSPC operative by Algerian police in early September, French officials said. The man told Algerian police that there was a cell in France that was going to attack the Paris subway, Orly airport south of the capital and the headquarters of the French intelligence service. The French put their investigation into high gear.

Police here staged more arrests, bringing the total to 16. Seven people have been released, and nine are being held on charges of associating with a terrorist organization and funding terrorism. As the investigation progressed, police discovered that the group was not planning specific attacks, but was organized to hit high-value targets of opportunity, senior law enforcement officials said.

The alleged head of the cell was Safe Bourrada, 35, a GSPC associate who in 1998 was convicted of taking part in a series of bomb attacks three years earlier, including one on the Paris subway that killed seven people, according to Jean-Francois Ricard, a top anti-terrorism judge in France. Bourrada was released from prison in 2003 after serving about half of a 10-year sentence and has been under surveillance by French police ever since.

Ricard said "our biggest concern right now" related to French citizens returning from the Middle East with terrorist training. He and other law enforcement officials declined to go into detail, saying the matter was sensitive and under investigation. But while the number of such cases may be small, he said, there was a steady stream of people going back and forth.

"What worries me the most is the behavior of GSPC, which has described France as their number one target," he said referring to a recent statement by the group's leader, Abdelmalek Droukdal, also known as Abu Mossab Abdelwadoud. That is particularly ominous because the group is "tightly linked" with Iraq's top al Qaeda leader, Abu Musab Zarqawi, Ricard said, making an attack on France "inevitable."

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