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France

France unveils new anti-jihad bill

media French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve introduced expanded legislation to fight jihadism on July 9, 2014. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

France’s Interior Minister presented an anti-terrorism bill on Wednesday that would intercept its nationals suspected of being radicalised from travelling to Syria and clamp down on online recruitment.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve unveiled the bill at Wednesday’s weekly cabinet meeting and comes amid growing concerns over the number of French nationals travelling to Syria.

The ban on foreign travel would be valid for up to six months on individuals suspected of being radicalised and would give authorities the right to confiscate and invalidate their passports.

Cazeneuve said the bill was balanced and that 100 percent precaution is “what we are trying to achieve.”

Cazeneuve’s introduction of the legislation coincided with reports on Wednesday that 29-year-old French citizen named only as Ali M had conversed online with an al-Qaeda-linked group about targeting French cultural monuments such as the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre museum.

The messages between Ali M and a senior member of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) were decrypted after France’s intelligence services arrested him on July 20, 2013.

He has been in French custody for the last year while he awaits trail for “criminal association”.

Ali M sent a long email detailing who and what should be attacked in France – from ordinary citizens gathering in small places to historical monuments.

Under the new legislation, airlines would be banned from carrying suspected passengers and would have to notify French authorities right at the point of reservation.

A passenger name record, which includes itineraries for individuals or groups, will help European authorities identify such persons.

Targeted passengers, including both minors and adults, who make it abroad would consequently be subject to an international arrest warrant.

Officials estimate around 800 French nationals or residents have travelled to Syria, returned to France or are planning to go there.

However, it is difficult to prove if a person really wants to enter into the battlefield or on what premises.

Authorities are concerned that nationals returning to France could orchestrate attacks like the shooting at the Brussels Jewish Museum in May that claimed four lives.

Frenchman Medhi Nemmouche, who fought in Syria and trained in Afghanistan, was arrested in connection with the shooting.

France has stepped up efforts to pre-emptively arrest suspects before they step foot in Syria, and evidence of seeking to fight is enough to charge one with plotting an act of terrorism.

The introduced bill will also clamp down on online recruitment, including asking Internet providers to block access to sites that provoke or praise acts of terrorism.

So-called “lone wolves” who plan terrorist acts on their own will also be subjected to persecution under the new bill, expanding on current legislation that targets people associated with a group plotting or carrying out a terrorist attack.

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