France wary of its Pakistani community
8th August 2005, 0 comments
PARIS, Aug 8 (AFP) - The Pakistani community in France and elsewhere in Europe is now, more than ever, being watched by intelligence services concerned about its role as a breeding ground for Islamic extremism that could give rise to attacks like those seen in London last month, French experts say.
The daily Le Figaro said Monday that a confidential report by France's intelligence service that was finalised days before the July 7 London bombings pointed to the threat of an al-Qaeda attack on Britain.
It said the report by the DCRG intelligence agency also highlighted the need to closely observe France's 40,000-strong Pakistani community with a view to preventing an attack on French soil.
An interior ministry official confirmed the existence of the report, but cautioned that it was "a very technical study on the Pakistani community in France."
He said it was not aimed at lecturing Britain on what might happen on its own soil.
According to the report quoted by Le Figaro, those plotting an attack could count on the "support of jihadists within the large Pakistani community in Britain" and warned: "France is not immune from this kind of violent group."
The report pointed to "the multiplication of passages through France by Pakistani activists from south Asia or London and the setting up of underground or official representations of the main extremist groups".
Louis Caprioli, a former anti-terrorism officer with France's DST counter-espionage agency who is now a consultant with the private security firm Geos, told AFP that the Pakistani community in France "insofar as it has elements practising Islamic fundamentalism, has always attracted the attention of the (intelligence) services".
"That started in the 1990s, when it emerged that Pakistan was a transit point for jihad training in Afghanistan," he said.
Richard Reid, the British 'shoe bomber' who failed in a bid to bring down a Paris-Miami flight in December 2001, notably had connections with Pakistanis in France, he said.
Dominique Thomas, a specialist in radical Islam, also raised the case of Reid. "He went to a certain number of cybercafes in Paris and in the suburbs that are run by Pakistanis, so it's logical that since that time, the RG (the domestic intelligence service) has interested itself in that milieu of small shops and movements established in France."
He added that Pakistanis living in France were "very dynamic economically speaking" and said that "it is completely plausible that Pakistanis in France might be close to movements in Pakistan which has ideologies founded on political Islam".
Pakistan, Thomas said, "is one of the major sources of Islamic thought, it's the country of the movement that was at the origin of the Taliban. There are several very powerful organisations there. It's not surprising that the Pakistanis in France are close to those organisations".
But, he cautioned: "That doesn't necessarily make them al-Qaeda activists'.
For Mariam Abu Zahab, an expert on Pakistan at France's Centre of International Studies and Research, it was important to highlight a difference in the makeup of the Pakistani communities in Britain and in France.
Britain has many Pakistani Kashmiris who she said were influenced by Islamic extremism because of the separatist insurrection against India that has raged in their home region since 1989.
"In France there are a majority of Punjabi, who are here mainly to do business and make money. You will find a few dozen youths ready to mobilise or go to summer camps in Kashmir to show off to their friends when they return. ... But I've never met any myself," she said.
As a result, the Pakistani community in France "is nothing like the British one," she said.
Subject: French news, terrorism, Pakistan, Islamic extremists, al-Queda