The visit to India of Mr. Jean-David Levitte, the ‘sherpa’ of President Sarkozy, during the second week of October was hardly noticed.
Monsieur Levitte is a very powerful man. In France, each and every file dealing with Foreign Affairs, terrorism or security comes to his desk. Recently, some voices were even heard in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs saying that he was the de-facto Foreign Minister of France and Bernard Kouchner was only here for the show. Levitte also acts as the unofficial National Security Advisor.
His visit to India was to prepare President Sarkozy who will be in Delhi early December (soon after the visits of Presidents Obama and Medvedev), but also to inform the Government of India of the serious terrorists threats faced by France (Paris has today several hostages in the hands of terrorist outfits in the Sahel region, Somalia and Afghanistan).
A few weeks ago, the world media widely discussed a Mumbai-type terrorist attack planned in Pakistan against Great Britain, France and Germany. Though the plans were said to be at an advanced stage, it was fortunately foiled by European intelligence services. The BBC nevertheless called it: “the most serious project planned by al-Qaida in recent years”.
But that is not all. On September 16, terrorists struck a blow to France in the far-away African state of Niger. Five French nationals and two of their African colleagues were kidnapped. Two of the French were employed by the French nuclear energy firm Areva (which will soon operate two plants in Maharashtra) and the other three by French construction company Vinci.
All five were working at an uranium mining site in North Niger in a place called Arlit. Areva gets more than 40% of its uranium supply from its mines in Niger, which incidentally is the world’s sixth largest producer of the radioactive heavy metal.
Already worried by the possibility of a terrorist attack on French territory, the French authorities immediately suspected the AQIM (al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb)
Already worried by the possibility of a terrorist attack on French territory, the French authorities immediately suspected the AQIM (al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb) previously known as the Safalist Group for Preaching and Combat (known by its French initials GSPC). For years, this Islamist militia has dreamt of overthrowing the Algerian government and instituting an Islamic State. But following a heavy crackdown by Algiers after 2003, splinter groups took refuge in the Tuareg regions of northern Mali and Niger. In September 2006, Ayman al-Zawahri, the al-Quaeda leader announced a ‘blessed union’ between the groups and declared France as the enemy.
The group is led by Abu Musab Abdel Wadud, the Bin Laden of the Maghreb, who is accused of killing a British hostage last year and a 78-year-old Frenchman Michel Germaneau in July 2010 (though his body has not been recovered so far).
The Spanish government is said to have recently paid millions of Euros to release two of its nationals captured by AQIM in Mauritania.AQIM’s main objective is clearly to attack French, Spanish and Algerian assets and personnel in the region.