Phobia of terrorism returns to France: ISIS women plan violence in south of country
The French authorities have arrested five women in the southern commune of Beziers, one of whom is suspected of planning violent acts, according to AFP.
It is noteworthy that French ISIS women detained in Syria went on a hunger strike to demand their return to their country. The New York Times reported that the French women who joined ISIS and are now held in detention camps in Syria went on hunger strike starting in February in protest against France’s refusal to bring them back for trial.
In April 2019, the largest administrative court in France rejected the request of French women in Syria to return to the country, and said that a judge was unable to rule on the matter because it involves negotiations with foreign authorities.
Western countries face the dilemma of dealing with their citizens returning from conflict zones in Syria and Iraq, especially those who joined the ranks of ISIS.
The arrests were made by France's General Directorate for Internal Security (DGSI) based on information about planning violent acts, according to what a source familiar with the investigation revealed, stressing that the nature of the work is not yet clear.
The Public Prosecution Office for Counter Terrorism opened a preliminary investigation on the charge of "forming a terrorist gang".
A judicial source stated that one of the detainees was suspected of planning to commit acts of violence, while the rest, the mother of the targeted detainee and her three sisters, including a minor, were arrested because they were at home.
During the arrest, police officers found Saif, according to a source close to the investigation who revealed that searches are continuing, according to AFP.
According to media reports, the plan was apparently targeting churches in Montpellier in the south.
For his part, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanan considered that the level of the terrorist threat in France is “extremely high,” reminding him of his instructions to the public prosecution offices to be more vigilant during the Easter holiday, saying, “I do not know yet if it was an attack that was thwarted, but the serious threats were consistent and therefore the DGSI stepped in.”
According to the French magazine Le Point, the arrests took place in the popular Davis neighborhood in the south of Beziers.
The weekly quoted a local source as saying that the arrested women “are known for their extremism,” and some of them have watched ISIS videos.
Although the vast majority of extremist operations are carried out by men, women have previously been convicted of carrying out such operations in France.
In 2019, a French court sentenced the two main defendants of a women's cell, Ornella Gilligmann and Ines Madani, to 25 and 30 years in prison after they were found guilty of attempting to blow up a car in front of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in September 2016. Appeal hearings are scheduled to begin in Paris in May.
France is among other European countries refusing to take back its ISIS citizens who are held in detention in Syria under the authority of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to be tried in the country, and the authorities are also delaying the recovery of ISIS wives and children.