October 1. A 29-year-old illegal immigrant from Tunisia stabbed two women to death at the central train station in Marseille. Witnesses heard the assailant shout "Allahu Akbar" as he lunged at the women with a 20-centimetre (eight-inch) knife before threatening soldiers, who shot him dead. The man, identified as Ahmed Hanachi, was using seven different identities and had a long criminal history. He had been arrested in Lyon for shoplifting just days before the attack, but those charges were dropped due to a lack evidence. He was released, despite not having the documents needed to live in France. Why he was never deported remains unclear.
October 2. Five people were arrested in Paris after police found four makeshift bombs at a building in the 16th arrondissement, one of the city's most exclusive neighborhoods. Police said there was no one living in the apartment block who might be considered a target for jihadists. Interior Minister Gérard Collomb surmised that the bomb was simply meant to create fear: "Blowing up a building in a posh neighborhood shows that no one is safe...that it could happen anywhere in France." He added: "This shows that the level of the threat in France is extremely high...yes, even if the Islamic State has suffered military setbacks, we are still in a state of war."
October 2. The trial began of Abdelkader Merah, the 35-year-old brother of Mohamed Merah. In March 2012, Mohamed had gone on a nine-day shooting spree in southern France, killing three soldiers and gunning down a teacher and three children at a Jewish school before being shot dead by police. Abdelkader stands accused of "knowingly" helping to facilitate the "preparation" of the attack, in particular by stealing the scooter used for the three separate shootings. He appeared alongside 34-year-old Fettah Malki, accused of giving Mohamed Merah a bulletproof jacket, an Uzi submachine gun and the ammunition he unloaded on his victims. Abdelkader Merah faces a possible life sentence while Malki could get 20 years in prison.
October 5. Six gas canisters attached to a "crude detonator device" were found under several trucks at a cement company in Paris. The trucks, parked in the French capital's northeastern 19th arrondissement, belonged to Franco-Swiss cement company Lafarge-Holcim. Lafarge is being investigated over claims that it paid taxes to the Islamic State and other armed groups in Syria to keep a plant running in a war zone. The company admitted that it resorted to "unacceptable measures" to continue operations at a now-closed cement factory in northern Syria in 2013 and 2014, after most French groups had quit the war-torn country.
October 6. A French woman who travelled three times to Syria in support of her jihadist son was sentenced to 10 years in prison for being part of a terrorist conspiracy. Christine Rivière, 51, was sentenced for her "unfailing commitment" to jihad and for helping a number of young women travel to Syria to marry jihadists, including her son, Tyler Vilus. Rivière, a Muslim convert who was nicknamed "Mama Jihad," said of her son: "I didn't want to push him to die a martyr, but that could happen. Then he would be in heaven, near Allah."
October 6. French prosecutors charged three men in connection with a makeshift explosive device made of gas canisters, placed inside an apartment block in western Paris. Amine A, his cousin Sami B, and Aymen B., were charged with "attempted murder in an organized group in connection with a terrorist enterprise" and placed in pre-trial detention. All three were arrested on October 2, two days after the device was found in the exclusive 16th arrondissement. Amine A., 30, and Aymen B., 29, are both on the terror watch list.
October 9. French police and intelligence services are surveilling around 15,000 jihadists living on French soil, according to Le Journal du Dimanche. Of these, some 4,000 are at "the top of the spectrum" and most likely to carry out an attack.
October 10. President Emmanuelle Macron announced a plan to open immigration offices in Niger and Chad to identify persons eligible for asylum on lists provided by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and bring them directly to France. The stated aim is to "better prevent an influx of economic migrants" who are not eligible for asylum. In all, France will take in 10,000 people, not only from Niger and Chad, but also from Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, by October 2019.
October 11. Interior Minister Gérard Collomb announced the dismissal of the central government's top representative in the southern Rhône region, after a report criticized "errors of judgement" and "serious faults" in handling foreigners whose papers are not in order. The report was commissioned after 29-year-old Tunisian Ahmed Hanachi stabbed two women to death at the central train station in Marseille on October 1.
October 11. A 20-year-old woman was arrested in Rouen on suspicion that she may have played a role in a jihadist attack on a church in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray. On July 26, 2016, two jihadists had broken into the church and murdered Father Jacques Hamel while he was celebrating mass. While leaving the church, they were shot dead by the police. A few hours later, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. Police say that shortly before the attack, the woman had been in contact with one of the jihadists.
October 12. A French intelligence agent accidentally sent a text message to the mobile phone of a jihadist, inadvertently warning him that he was under surveillance and being monitored, according to M6 television. The target, a "proselytizing Islamist" living in Paris, responded by directly calling the agent and informing him of his mistake.
October 12. The interior ministry announced that France will maintain border checks with its European neighbors until April 30, 2018, because of "persistent" terror threats. The 1985 Schengen Agreement ended passport checks and other protective measures on borders, but after the jihadist attacks in Paris in November 2015, France resumed them.
France recently announced that it will maintain border checks with its European neighbors until April 30, 2018, because of "persistent" terror threats. France resumed passport checks and other protective measures on borders after the November 2015 jihadist attacks in Paris. Pictured: French border and customs police control vehicles at the France-Italy border. (Photo by Murielle Gander Cransac/Getty Images)
October 15. A groundbreaking ceremony was held in Strasbourg to expand the Eyüp Sultan Mosque. The 32 million euro ($37 million) project will make the mosque one of the biggest in Europe. The 15-acre site will include a school, a library, conference rooms, restaurants and boutiques, as well as a prayer room for up to 3,000 worshippers. The mosque, which will be redesigned according to Ottoman architecture, will have 28 domes and 44-meter-high (145-foot) minarets. Local officials say the mosque will contribute to the religious, architectural and cultural diversity of Strasbourg.
October 16. President Emmanuel Macron pledged to deport illegal immigrants who commit crimes in France. He said that even without new legislation, "we can take tougher measures" and expel illegal immigrants if they commit a crime, "whatever it may be." He added: "We are not taking all the steps that should be taken. Well, that's going to change." He was speaking after it emerged that a Tunisian who stabbed two women to death in Marseille had been arrested in Lyon two days earlier for shoplifting.
October 18. President Emmanuel Macron unveiled a plan to bolster France's domestic security. A key promise was to hire 10,000 extra police and gendarmes during the next five years. He also proposed to create a new "daily security police" (police de la sécurité du quotidian, PSQ) which would be deployed in "priority neighborhoods from the point of view of insecurity." The PSQ, community police charged with fighting crime at the local level, will be tested in about fifteen localities in early 2018. In addition, Macron announced a plan to combat radicalization and to reform of asylum procedures to bring them in line with those of Germany. Finally, he promised to speed up the deportations of illegal immigrants who commit crimes in France. "We don't welcome people well; our procedures are too long; we don't integrate people properly and neither do we send enough people back," Macron said. "We should take our fair share, but we can't just welcome in all the world's poor people."
October 20. Prosecutors in Toulouse launched an investigation after receiving a report that a couple in nearby Léguevin named their newborn son "Jihad." Article 57 of the French Civil Code states that the name chosen by parents must be in "the best interests of the child." A justice ministry memo on the topic states that local registrars must inform the public prosecutor if a name appears to be contrary to the law. If the public prosecutor thinks the name "Jihad" is contrary to the law, he can ask a judge to order the name to be changed. If the parents are unable or unwilling to choose a new name, the judge has the right to choose a name.
October 20. Henda Ayari, a former Salafist who is now a Muslim feminist activist, accused prominent Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan of sexually assaulting her in Paris. Ramadan, a grandson of the founder of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, denied her accusations. Some of his supporters criticized Ayari on social media, insinuating that if the assault did take place, it was her own fault because Islam forbids an unmarried woman to be alone with a man. Others claimed that Ramadan is a victim of "international Zionism" and that the charges were "fabricated by Jews."
October 22. Eight people, including three minors, were charged with "criminal terrorist conspiracy" for plotting to attack left-wing politicians, migrants and mosques. An investigation found that the group, led by Logan Alexandre Nisin, a 21-year-old far-right activist based in Provence, planned to buy weapons, organize paramilitary training exercises and conduct shooting practice.
October 23. An official inquiry cast doubt on allegations that the French police had abused migrants in the northern port city of Calais. Human Rights Watch had accused police of a disproportionate use of force against migrants as well as aid workers when the notorious Calais migrant camp, known as the "jungle," was dismantled in October 2016. The inquiry said that some abuse was "plausible" but that there was no proof it had occurred. It added that accusations that police had used pepper spray against migrants while they were sleeping were "without foundation." The report found that many of the injuries sustained by migrants were due to brawls among migrants. "There is no evidence to prove the most serious allegations made," Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said.
October 24. France issued an arrest warrant for Redouane Sebbar, a 25-year-old Moroccan man being held in Germany and suspected of helping plan an August 2015 attack on high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris.
October 26. Of the 1,900 French jihadists fighting with the Islamic State, as many as one-fifth have received as much as €500,000 ($580,000) in social welfare payments from the French state, according to Le Figaro.
October 30. Henda Ayari, in an interview with Le Parisien, gave detailed public testimony accusing Tariq Ramadan of sexually assaulting her in Paris. She said that Ramadan believes that "either you wear a veil or you get raped." Ramadan denied the accusations as a "campaign of slander." Since Ayari's original allegation, two more women have filed sexual assault complaints against Ramadan.
October 30. President Emmanuel Macron formally signed a new counter-terrorism law that gives prefects, police and security forces wide-ranging powers — without the need to seek prior approval from a judge — to search homes, place people under house arrest and close places of worship. The measure also authorizes police to perform identity checks at French borders. The new law, adopted by the French Senate on October 18, makes permanent many of the previously exceptional measures imposed under a two-year-old state of emergency, which was introduced after the jihadist attacks in Paris in November 2015. That state of emergency was slated to expire on November 1. Macron said the new law strikes the right balance between security and respect for civil liberties. Hardliners countered that it does not go far enough, while human rights groups complained that it will leave France in a permanent state of emergency.
Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.