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French press review 23 April 2015

Text by: William Niba
4 min

An amateur jihadist wrecks his terrorist attack on Paris after shooting himself, and France raises its terror alert to an all-time high. And will Bongo's heirs kill each other over their late Gabonese leader's millions?


A chilling discovery by police of weapons in the car and home of a jihadist in Paris and detailed plans to attack at least one church in the French capital, while DNA evidence has also linked the terrorist to the murder of a woman found shot dead in her car over the weekend near the capital. That’s not the synopsis of a new Sherlock Holmes thriller but a hot news story making headlines in the press.

All the national dailies are reporting the arrest of 24-year-old Algerian computer sciences student Sid Ahmed Ghlam after he was found in possession of a Kalashnikov rifle, handguns, bulletproof vests and several cell phones. The arsenal included a laptop and documents written in Arabic with references to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State armed group, potential targets and how to carry out attacks.

Le Monde is stunned by the incredible circumstances in which the jihadist was arrested. He had called the ambulance service at 9 am on Sunday morning saying he had been shot in the thigh during an armed robbery at his Paris home.

As he was being rushed to hospital, alerted police followed traces of blood which led them to Ghlam’s car. There they discovered a Kalashnikov and loaded chargers, an automatic pistol, a police car blue light and a GPS device, all of which prompted the cops to raise an alert. Police later found out that Ghlam wounded himself by accident while manipulating the weapon.

Le Figaro reveals that police have discovered that one of Ghlam's guns had been used to shoot young mother Aurelie Chatelain, an unemployed dance enthusiast from northern France whose remains were discovered in the Parisian suburb of Villejuif on Sunday. It is the same town where the terror suspect planned to carry out his attack, according to the conservative publication.

Libération also provides robust coverage of the fortuitous circumstances surrounding the foiling of the terrorist plot. The paper reports that Ghlam recently attracted the attention of intelligence services after comments he posted on social networks, expressing a desire to go and fight in Syria alongside jihadists in 2014.

Le Figaro puts the aborted plan of the jihadist into context. According to the conservative publication, it comes some three months after Islamic extremists gunned down 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo magazine, a policewoman and four others at a Jewish supermarket in a three-day reign of terror in the French capital. Christians, it argues, are clearly the new target of the Islamists. The arrest of the Algerian student has plunged the country into a near climate of uncertainty, it says.

But according to La Croix, this is the very first time in France that such a grave Islamist threat hangs on a place of worship.

According to the Catholic daily it underscores the magnitude of the greater cynical designs by the Islamic State group to exterminate Christians not only in portions of Syria and Iraq which they control but also in Libya where dozens of Christian immigrants from Ethiopia and Egypt have been decapitated in recent weeks.

The Catholic daily says there is no doubt in its mind that the terrorist plot was clearly designed to sow fear and discord between religions in the French circular state. It urges French Christians to continue living their lives and to remain discreetly vigilant without succumbing to fear and not to consider Muslims as potential enemies.

The Bongo family is in shreds as a fierce battle rages over the late Gabonese leader’s pile of money. This is the title of a special investigative report published by Le Monde.

According to the paper, since Omar Bongo’s death in 2009, the Gabonese capital Libreville has become the theatre of a succession battle worthy of tragic comedy. The stakes: hundreds of millions to be shared among 53 heirs, the biggest protagonists being Gabon’s current President Ali Bongo Ondimba, and his elder sister Pascaline.

Le Monde reports that the two have daggers drawn over a huge fortune deposited in fiscal havens around the world and several real estate properties as well as business holdings in 40 of Gabon’s largest companies.

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