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Interview: France's President François Hollande

IS videos ‘terrorism through images’, Hollande tells RFI

François Hollande faces journalists from RFI, France 24 and TV5 at the Palais de l'Elysée on Thursday evening
François Hollande faces journalists from RFI, France 24 and TV5 at the Palais de l'Elysée on Thursday evening RFI/Pierre Rene Worms

French President François Hollande dubbed the Islamic State (IS) armed group’s propaganda videos “terrorist attacks through images” and insisted that France will continue to clamp down on would-be jihadists in an exclusive interview with RFI and sister stations France24 and TV5.

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Commenting on this week’s IS video of three of its fighters burning their French passports and appealing to compatriots to join them, Hollande described the armed Islamists’ propaganda offensive as “a kind of terrorist attack though images”.

The group hopes to “frighten us and attract a certain number of young people to join their dreadful struggle”, Hollande said, and called on people not to be intimidated by its video output.

The French government must continue to strengthen its legal arsenal against Islamist armed groups, citing the recently passed law that aims to prevent aspiring jihadists travelling to Syria and Iraq to join them.

Other questions Hollande commented on included:

  • French hostages: The murderers of Hervé Gourdel, who was killed by IS-linked kidnappers in Algeria last month, must be found and punished, the president said, when asked to comment on Alger’s claim to have killed one of them. “We’re doing all we can” to find Serge Lazarevic, who has been held somewhere in the Sahel for three years, and Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou is leading efforts to bring him back.
  • Burkina Faso and democracy in Africa: The ousting of Burkina Faso’s Blaise Compaoré shows that “Africans are attached to democracy and constitutional order” and France was trying to “avoid a bloodbath” in helping him flee the country. France owes a debt to Chad for its help in fighting armed Islamists in Mali and Boko Haram in Nigeria but President Idriss Déby know “we want to see pluralist and democratic elections”.
  • Francophonie: “French is a language that can change a certain number of realities not just for speaking to each other,” Hollande commented ahead of the annual summit of French-speaking countries in Senegal. The organisation brings together a third of the countries in the UN and can take firm action against climate change. One of its members, Canada, which is currently a major polluter, “must realise that it’s not a question of preventing the development of industry but of avoiding catastrophes”. French companies should carry out their training in French.
  • Recognition of Palestine: “There is a motion, I don’t need to comment on it, it’s up to Parliament,” Hollande replied when asked about the National Assembly debate on recognising Palestine as a state. “But there will be a diplomatic inititiative, which France will lead, to revive talks between Israelis and Palestinians.”
     

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