France has placed its citizens with roots in Nigeria, Niger, Mali and Senegal under close watch for links to terrorist groups.
A French judge, Marc Trevidic, said in a recent interview with the New York Times in Paris, that the security watch arose from fears that French citizens with roots in these countries could leave the European nation and travel to Mali to receive training from terrorists and return home to cause havoc.
Trevidic said France’s intervention in Mali, where it is leading a multinational offensive war against Islamist fighters, had led to increased threats of attacks on its soil.
The outspoken 47-year-old judge said since a Frenchman of Algerian origin, Mohammed Merah, 23, killed seven people last March in Toulouse, the French police and intelligence agencies had launched more investigations.
He further said operatives had also become less willing to monitor terrorism suspects for longer time before intervening and detaining them.
The journal reports that Trévidic had been dealing with terrorism cases since 2000, before al-Qaeda’s attacks in the United States, and was regarded as the best-known of the eight investigating magistrates assigned to a special anti-terrorism court in Paris.
The anti-terrorism judge said when France indicated some months ago that it would lead the Mali campaign, the authorities had noticed an increase in the number of French passport holders departing for the African country.
As the intervention continues in Mali, he said France’s major challenge, “is to try to stop the departures, because if we can’t, the threat will be higher and higher.”
“Because they will be trained and come back and organise themselves.We have a lot of citizens in France who are also Malians, Senegalese, Nigerians and Nigeriens, and they have passports and can also go there, and the frontiers are very long and fluid, so it will be very difficult,” he added.
France has suffered the bruise of kidnapping by suspected terrorists in Nigeria. The French government on February 19, 2013, said seven of its citizens were kidnapped in Cameroon and were taken to Nigeria.
The Moulin Fournier family — three adults and four children — who were taken from outside a national park in Cameroon while on tourism, are still being held hostage as of Friday.
Jama’atu Ansarul Muslimina fi Biladis Sudan, also known as JAMBS — a breakaway faction of Boko Haram — was also reported to have claimed responsibility for the abduction of a French engineer, Francis Colump, 63, in Katsina State in 2012.
The French government had stated that it would not negotiate with terrorist.
Meanwhile, Nigerian Immigration Service said it was keeping a watch list of all foreign nationals coming into Nigeria as part of national security measures.
The service said keeping a watch list at all the border points was part of its operating standards.
The NIS Public Relations Officer, Ekpedeme King, said the service was collaborating with other security agencies and passed necessary information to them for further action when necessary.
Though he declined to mention specific nationals that were of special interest to NIS, King noted that the agency sought to prevent persons of special interests from entering the country.
He said, “We keep a watch list of all visiting foreigners and when we get information, we pass it to other security agencies we are collaborating with. I can’t give you more information because this had to do with national security.”
The State Security Service was not available for comments, as its spokesperson, Marilyn Ogar, could not be reached on the telephone.