MS Risk Blog

France Forms New Counter-Terrorism Task Force in Wake of Latest Attack

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France this month created a new counter-terrorism task force, which is comprised of all intelligence services that will coordinate responses to attacks. The formation came just a day after a man carrying Algerian papers attacked police officers outside the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.

On 6 June, a 40-year-old Algerian student armed with a hammer and kitchen knives shouted “this is for Syria.” A source close to the investigation has disclosed that a video, in which the attacker pledged allegiance to IS, had been found in his flat during a police raid on Tuesday evening. Government spokesman Christophe Castaner disclosed that the assailant had not previously “shown any signs of radicalisation.” Surveillance video near the scene depicted the assailant running up to three police officers in the square outside Notre Dame and attempting to land a blow with the hammer. One officer was hurt before the aggressor was shot in the chest.

Sources have indicated that last month newly-elected President Emmanuel Macron, who was portrayed by rivals a weak on security during the presidential campaign, instructed that the task force be created in order to bring France’s multiple security agencies inside the Elysee presidential palace. On 7 June, President Macron appointed Pierre de Bousquet de Florian to head the new intelligence task force known as the National Centre for Counter Terrorism. It will be under the direct authority of the president. It will include some twenty people representing the various security services and will be operations 24 hours seven days a week. According to a French presidency official, “this has been created to ensure that the intelligence services truly cooperate.” Bousquet de Florian once headed France’s DST regional intelligence service, which was disbanded under former president Nicolas Sarkozy. President Macron also named career diplomat Bernard Emie, who served as ambassador to Britain, Turkey, Libya and Jordan, as head of the DGSE external intelligence service.

The performance of France’s intelligence services have come under close scrutiny since the November 2015 attacks in Paris, when militant gunmen and suicide bombers struck entertainment venues across the capital city, killing 130 people. In total, more than 230 people have been killed in a wave of attacks in France either claimed by or inspired by the so-called Islamic State (IS) group over the past two-and-a-half years.