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French nationals living abroad: be on your guard
“Hervé Gourdel died because he was French”. Those words pronounced by François Hollande to announce the beheading of the hostage underline the danger faced by French nationals. After the shock comes the anxiety for those who have become “one of the Islamist groups’ prime targets”, according to Pierre Martinet, former DGSE (General Board of External Security) agent.
Since the French intervention in Iraq began, the ministry of foreign affairs has identified about forty high-risk countries (see the map of Le Figaro below).The first zone includes North and East Africa, where abductions of French expatriates and terrorist attacks were reported. The second one contains the Arab Peninsula and the Persian Gulf countries. The third zone includes all the countries located on the Mediterranean coast of the Middle East. In total, more than 245,000 permanent residents are directly affected by this warning (BFMTV figures).
But “France is not afraid”, the minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve confirmed. French citizens living in the high-risk zones have been warned by their embassy or consulate to be “very careful and to remain on their guard”: they have all been asked to avoid gathering places and to make themselves known. Their protection is organized by the government, but it also requires a minimum of personal responsibility.
The threats are not just against “the spiteful and filthy French”: Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, ISIS spokesman announced on 22 September: “If you can kill (…) any of the citizens of the countries that have joined a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be". The nations fighting against ISIS are all vulnerable both in their territory and abroad… But “there is no policy without risk”, UMP MP Jacques Myard declared. A view clearly shared by David Cameron, who urged the UK to join the US-led coalition against the “medieval barbarians”. And on 26 September, the British MPs backed air strikes in Iraq against “psychopathic terrorists”, as Cameron called them.