Mali crisis paving way for militant attacks on France: judge
By John Irish
PARIS (Reuters) - The insurgency that has seized the north of Mali is paving the way for attacks on France as more French Muslims of African origin are finding a cause in the conflict, Paris's top anti-terrorism judge warned on Sunday.
As Mali's former colonial ruler, France fears al Qaeda's north African arm, AQIM, is cementing a base in the West African state that would provide a launch pad against French political and economic interests at home and abroad.
"We have a very large Malian community in France, but also from sub-Saharan Africa as a whole," Marc Trevedic said in a rare interview with weekly newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche. "These 'black' French Muslims who were suffering from latent racism from 'Arabs' have for the first time found their jihad."
Diplomatic sources have said a handful of French nationals had travelled to the Sahel region to train for Islamic jihad, or holy struggle. Trevedic said four investigations were open on what he called Malian "terrorist" cells.
"They are young, often dual nationals or who have links with sub-Saharan Africa," he said. "They get in either through Niger or Algeria, but many are Malians who can go and visit their families and don't need visas."
France has been a vocal supporter of plans for an international operation to try to wrest back northern Mali from Islamist insurgents, who hold eight French hostages in the area.
In December, the U.N. Security Council authorized a French-drafted resolution to deploy an African-led force to retrain Mali's defeated army and support an anti-insurgent mission, although no ground operations are expected until later in 2013.
"All the ingredients exist so that there are repercussions on our soil," the judge said. "France is backing those that want to intervene militarily in Timbuktu. So we are the enemy and are identified as such." Continued...