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French press review 17 July 2012

3 min

Today's front pages question how much French intelligence already knew about the Toulouse murderer, Mohamed Merah, if an income tax of 75% is more liken to punishment and not patriotism and if the failure of Mali's government in Bamako is the reason for the current crisis in the north of the country.

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Libération thinks it's a good idea to devote the cover and four inside pages of today's paper to the conversation between the Toulouse murderer, Mohamed Merah, and the police negotiators who tried, unsuccessfully, to talk him into giving himself up.

Dossier: AfPak news and analysis

The facts date from last March. This story was all over the French media earlier this month, when the private TV chanel TF1 first broadcast extracts from the police tapes, and everybody else scurried to do the same, while claiming to be scandalised at the lack of respect shown to the families of Merah's seven victims.

And now Libé, in the name of legitimate criticism of the police, publishes the entire conversation on its website.

The problem is to understand how a young man without income could go looking for islamic training centres in Algeria, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Palestine and Waziristan, and come back to France as if he was returning from a holiday camp.

Worse, Mohamed Merah was interviewed by the French intelligence services on his return from Afghanistan, who accepted his story that he had gone there as a tourist. In fact, he had undergone small-arms training in a terrorist camp, where he committed himself to waging holy war in France. Five months later, Merah killed his first victim, a French soldier.

Libération says it is time for a serious overhaul of the entire intelligence gathering aparatus.

The tax gathering aparatus is up for overhaul too. On the front page of Le Monde Finance Minister, Pierre Moscovici, has been explaining that paying income tax at the 75% rate is not punishment, it's patriotism.

None of this will be of concern to Swedish soccer star, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, soon to be earning 14 million euros per year playing for our local club, Paris St Germain. Zlatan's salary is to be paid net of income tax.

On inside pages, Le Monde looks to Mali, suggesting that the crisis that has seen huge swathes of the north of the country fall into the hands of various armed islamist groups is, first and foremost, a failure of the supposed central government in Bamako.

But there is also the problem of porous borders with Mauritania, Niger and Algeria, badlands fairly swarming with religious fanatics and other madmen, armed with the left-overs of Moamer Khadafi's Libyan arsenal.

If the secessionists of the Azawad National Liberation Movement finally get their wish, which seems to come down to some kind of independence from Bamako, they will then have to deal with the real problem as posed by such groups as Ansar Eddine and the north African branch of Al-Qaeda. The touaregs may well find Bamako to have been the lesser of two evils.

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