French press review 17 January 2015
Issued on: Modified:
The killing of 17 people by Islamist gunmen in Paris 10 days ago was the deadliest terrorist attack in France in 50 years. On Thursday this week, the security forces in neighbouring Belgium killed two armed Islamists, wounded a third and, they say, dismantled a "terrorist cell" that was planning to kill policemen.
Naturally, the French papers this morning continue to explore what has happened, why it happened and what happens next.
The front page of the centrist daily Le Monde declares that "Europe faces the Jihadist menace". It flags six related stories inside the paper.
A vast anti-terrorist operation in Belgium. The arrest in France of people linked with Amedy Coulibaly - the Jihadist gunmen held responsible for the deaths of a policewoman and four Jewish hostages in Paris. Two entire pages detailing the police assault on the Kosher supermarket where Coulibaly and the hostages were killed. A proposal from the centre right opposition party - the UMP - to strip dual nationals involved in terrorism of their French citizenship. And a calming message from President François Hollande to French Muslims describing them as "the first victims of fundamentalism".
Plus, there's the visit to Paris yesterday of the US Secretary of State John Kerry. Le Monde pictures Holland and Kerry embracing. Regular listeners may recall that more than 40 Presidents and Prime Ministers from across the globe demonstrated their solidarity with France by joining last Sunday's million person "Je Suis Charlie" march in Paris. US President Barak Obama was not among them. Washington was represented by its Ambassador to France. This seemed insensitive and insulting and, needless to say, raised more than a few eyebrows here. Kerry's visit - albeit a week late - looks like an attempt to undo the damage.
Le Monde's editorial says France is "at war at home and abroad," notably in northern Mali and Iraq. The threat posed by Jihadists - that's to say Islamist extremists engaged in what they consider a "Holy War" - has never been greater. Extraordianry times require extraordinary measures, the paper says. Le Monde is worried that France has dropped its guard. The nation's defence budget is being cut as never before, it laments. "Is this logical?" it asks. I think we know the answer to that.
The lead story in the on-line version of the popular daily Le Parisien is anger in the Muslim world over this week's issue of the satirical paper Charlie Hebdo - on the cover of which is a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed.
Le Parisien reports that "In many Muslim-majority countries, demonstrations, sometimes violent, took place on Friday, the day of prayer, to denounce the 'blasphemy' attributed to the satirical weekly."
In Niger, at least four people - including a policeman - were killed and around 50 injured in Zinder, the country's second city, where the French cultural center was burned. In Pakistan, a photographer with Agence France Presse was shot and seriously wounded at a demonstration outside the French consulate in Karachi. There were other angry protests in Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar and Multan, where the French tricolour was burned. Rallies were held also in Senegal, Mali, Algeria and Mauritania.
In Istanbul in Turkey, le Parisien tells readers, the Charlie Hebdo killers - the Kouachi brothers - were celebrated as "heroes." Hundreds of people gathered outside a mosque carrying placards saying "We are all Kouachi".
Like most French publications, the paper reproduces the Charlie Hebdo cartoons which have angered many of the Muslim faithful.
"Aux actes citoyens" implores the front page of left-leaning Libération. It's a cry for "action" - and a play on the refrain from La Marseillaise - the French national anthem - "Aux armes, citoyens," - that's "Grab your weapons, citizens!". The momentum born with what the paper calls "the Charlie movement" must not be lost, it declares.
Libé offers readers "five paths towards Republican renewal." The point here is that the terrorists attacks in Paris - and the extreme Islamism that inspired and enabled them - is seen by many as an attack not only on the victims - but on the values and fabric of the French Republic.
Right-wing Le Figaro leads on what it calls an "anti-Islamist dragnet in Europe". The headline on the paper's front page editorial is just one word : "Vigilance". Given the prevailing mood of anxiety, no-one, of the left, the centre or the right, will disagree with that.
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