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Al-Qaïda à la conquête du Maghreb : Le terrorisme aux portes de l'Europe

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    Azawad - one perspective on the issues

    Here's a recent video on some perspectives on the Azawad issue in northern Mali.....

    The Azawad Question

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    March 15, 2011 -- When Adlène Hicheur, a French-Algerian physicist working on antimatter at CERN’s enormous particle collider outside Geneva, was arrested on October 8, 2009, on suspicion of conspiring with an Algerian branch of Al Qaeda, fears of doomsday plots rippled through the tabloid press. CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, felt obliged to reassure the public that Dr. Hicheur did not have access to anything dangerous and that antimatter bombs as featured in the Dan Brown novel Angels and Demons were for all practical purposes flights of fancy.

    Last fall, the Swiss government closed its investigation of Dr. Hicheur, saying it had found no evidence of wrongdoing, but in France, Dr. Hicheur’s detention was extended. Last month, it was extended again, by four months. Press officers for France’s interior minister, Claude Guéant, did not respond to telephone and e-mail requests for comment on the case. So, more than 500 days after his arrest, Dr. Hicheur, now 34, remains in preventive detention in a Paris prison without having been charged with any crime. Nor, say his lawyers and his family, has any evidence been produced that he did anything more than browse Islamic political Web sites. No trial has been scheduled.

    After months of silence, Dr. Hicheur’s family and colleagues have recently begun to speak out, urging his release. The issue, they say, is a simple matter of human rights. The long incarceration has turned Dr. Hicheur’s life into a Kafka novel, they say, and is endangering his physical and mental health, as well as his career and his family. Dr. Hicheur walks with a cane because of a herniated disk that was aggravated by his arrest and initial interrogation, his family said. Recently he was beaten up by another inmate in the Fresnes prison, his lawyer says. What physics news he gets comes by regular mail during the three visits a week he is allowed with colleagues and family members, in a room that one visitor described as barely bigger than a phone booth.

    “Somebody who is in prison without a charge, this is against all international laws,” said Michael Dittmar, a CERN physicist and leader of a lab group known as the ConCERNed for Humanity club, which discussed Dr. Hicheur’s plight at a recent meeting. “It’s shocking how a person can disappear.” Under French law, a person suspected of terrorist connections can be held in “provisional detention” for up to four years, depending on the nature of the alleged offense, without being charged or tried. Dr. Hicheur could be detained for up to two years, according to his lawyer, Dominique Beyreuther-Minkov. “He’s losing hope to be released some day,” said Jean-Pierre Lees, a professor at the Laboratory of Particle Physics in Annecy-le-Vieux, France, where Dr. Hicheur earned his Ph.D. Dr. Lees has organized an international support committee. “Personally, I don’t believe he did anything wrong,” Dr. Lees said. “He went on the Internet, chatting in a forum. The police tried to build a picture of a potential terrorist, but discussion does not make you a terrorist.”

    Nearly 100 scientists, including Jack Steinberger of CERN, winner of a Nobel Prize in Physics, signed a letter to the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, in December. They wrote, “It seems to us that there is no justification for the prolonged detention, of almost 14 months so far, of Dr. Adlène Hicheur, an internationally recognized scientist, held in much esteem by his colleagues.” The unusual thing about Dr. Hicheur’s case, say his friends and supporters, is that it is happening to a scientist. At CERN, where the pursuit of nature’s secrets traditionally takes place in a setting free of national or ethnic tensions, Dr. Hicheur’s situation has come as a shock, said Maurizio Pierini, a CERN physicist. “The reality of the international situation came to us with some violence, while we were thinking we were not too much a part of it,” he said in an e-mail. “And we were quite unprepared.” As an international organization, CERN cannot become involved in legal proceedings of its member states, the laboratory’s spokesman, James Gillies, said by e-mail.

    Family and friends describe Dr. Hicheur as an observant Muslim and a shy but genial colleague and friend. His brother Halim Hicheur, a physiology researcher in Grenoble, France, called him “a good guy” and said he was the kind of “theorist who just wants to understand.” Dr. Hicheur was born in Sétif, Algeria, one of six children of a mason and a homemaker. When he was 1, the family moved to Vienne, France. He and his siblings were first drawn to science in high school because it allowed the most flexibility in college, Halim Hicheur said by e-mail. “We then, my brother and myself, graduated and became really passionate about science,” he said, “first enjoying thinking about the origins of the universe, and myself being more attracted by life science — by the brain in fact!”

    Dr. Hicheur has spent his professional life trying to understand the difference between matter and antimatter, to explain why the universe is made of matter and antimatter. He has been the author or co-author of more than 100 papers. After obtaining his Ph.D. under Dr. Lees at the Annecy laboratory, for work done partly at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford, Dr. Hicheur worked at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Britain and then joined the Laboratory for High Energy Physics at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland. There, he is part of a team that operates LHCb, one of the giant particle detectors on CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. Dr. Hicheur was arrested at his parents’ apartment in Vienne just as he was about to travel to Sétif to meet with a contractor about building a house on land he had recently bought there, and for which he had transferred about $18,000 to Algeria, his brother said. He was also planning to meet with physicists at the University of Sétif as part of a long-range goal to establish research collaborations with physicists in Algeria.

    According to news reports, Dr. Hicheur had been under surveillance for a year and had been in Internet contact with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Al Qaeda’s North African affiliate. Shortly after the arrest, a French police official told Le Monde that Dr. Hicheur had planned to attack a military base in Annecy that is home to an elite force that had recently left for Afghanistan. The French authorities have been silent ever since. Dr. Hicheur’s lawyer, Ms. Beyreuther-Minkov, said she had petitioned for his release at least 15 times and was taking the case to France’s Supreme Court. “I feel like David facing Goliath,” she said by e-mail, “but everybody knows the end of the story.”

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    December 1, 2010 -- Seven men are being held in Spain on suspicion of having links to a Pakistani militant group blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, officials say. The six Pakistanis and a Nigerian man are suspected of sending money and forged documents to Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), a group connected to al-Qaeda. Three others - two Pakistanis and a Thai national - were held in Thailand as part of the same operation. The three-day assault by gunmen in India two years ago killed 166 people. The suspects allegedly formed part of a group in Thailand linked to LeT.

    Spain's Interior Ministry confirmed the arrests, saying anti-terrorist officers detained the suspects in raids in and around Barcelona late on Tuesday and early on Wednesday. The ministry said the arrests were part of an international operation, and that the head of the organisation - a Pakistani national living in Thailand - had been detained. The ministry said the man had "directed the cells based in Europe, decided the features of the passports to obtain and, once they were received in Bangkok, supplied them to different terrorist groups". It said the operation "neutralises an important cell providing passports to al-Qaeda".

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    November 8, 2010 -- Adlène Hicheur, a high-energy physicist who has worked on the world's largest particle collider, has been held in a French prison under suspicion of terrorism for more than a year. Now, his colleagues are publicly protesting what they describe as his Kafkaesque detention. In a letter to the French Physical Society, 19 physicists say that they are deeply concerned about Hicheur, a 33-year-old French-Algerian who until his arrest was a postdoctoral researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) and worked on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, near Geneva, Switzerland. Signatories to the letter include Jack Steinberger, winner of the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physics, who works at CERN. "The research career of Adlène, even in the case that he is publically (sic) demonstrated to be innocent of all charges, is greatly endangered by the length and the arbitrariness of the procedure," the group writes.

    Hicheur was arrested on 8 October 2009 at his family's home in the southern French town of Vienne. According to press reports, he was suspected of plotting terrorism attacks with 'Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb' — the North African branch of the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda. From the beginning, colleagues have had their doubts about the case. "I think he is innocent," says Jean-Pierre Lees, deputy director of the Laboratory of Particle Physics in Annecy-Le-Vieux, France, who worked with Hicheur when the postdoc was a graduate student and helped to organize the letter. Lees says that, in the days after the arrest, he had kept quiet at the request of Hicheur's family and lawyer, who told him that any noise could slow Hicheur's release. But little has changed over the past year. Hicheur has remained incarcerated in Fresnes Prison near Paris while prosecutors gather evidence. Presiding judges have denied repeated requests for his provisional release until the trial, on the grounds that his communications and movements should be strictly guarded, says Dominique Beyreuther-Minkov, Hicheur's lawyer. The case remains open, with no firm date for either a trial or a formal indictment. "My opinion is that it is an empty case," says Beyreuther-Minkov, before adding that she can't discuss further details, owing to strict secrecy laws surrounding French legal proceedings. The office of Christophe Teissier, the anti-terrorism judge who is presiding over the case, declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.

    Those who worked with Hicheur also have deep doubts over the accusations. Lees describes Hicheur as a shy but affable scientist who loved political debate. Olivier Schneider, a physicist at EPFL who worked with Hicheur and signed the letter, says that the young man was a brilliant researcher whose job was to model magnetic fields inside the LHCb detector, one of four giant detectors at the collider. Schneider describes his colleague as quiet but "rather normal", and says that he is increasingly distressed by Hicheur's prolonged detention. "After a year, either they have some proof and he should be judged or they have no proof and he should be released," says Schneider. Lees says that he decided to organize the letter in Hicheur's defence because he was one of the few who knew the French-Algerian physicist well. "If I don't speak, very few people will," he says, "and this could last forever."

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    Mercredi 27 Octobre 2010 -- Le chef d'Al-Qaïda, Oussama ben Laden, a affirmé que la France ne connaîtrait la sécurité que si elle se retirait d'Afghanistan et cessait "ses injustices" à l'égard des musulmans, dans un message audio justifiant l'enlèvement de Français au Sahel, diffusé mercredi sur al-Jazira. Dans ce court message sonore adressé "au peuple français", diffusé par la chaîne qatarie basée à Doha, ben Laden estime en outre qu'il est "du droit" des musulmans de riposter par la violence contre "les envahisseurs français" à l'interdiction du voile intégral en France. Le chef d'Al-Qaïda affirme dans son réquisitoire contre la France vouloir expliquer "les raisons" qui justifient "les menaces contre votre sécurité et la prise en otages de vos fils".

    Fin septembre-début octobre, les autorités françaises avaient fait état d'une menace "réelle" dans le pays et appelé à la vigilance. "Le seul moyen de préserver votre sécurité est de mettre un terme à toutes vos injustices à l'égard de notre nation, notamment votre retrait de la maudite guerre de Bush en Afghanistan, et de mettre fin au colonialisme direct et indirect", dit Ben Laden. Environ 3.750 soldats français sont stationnés en Afghanistan. Il se demande comment la France peut "participer à l'occupation de nos pays et aider les Américains à tuer nos enfants et nos femmes", et vouloir en même temps "vivre en sécurité et en paix".

    Le chef d'Al-Qaïda accuse en outre la France de "s'ingérer dans les affaires des musulmans, dans le nord et l'ouest de l'Afrique en particulier", justifiant l'enlèvement à Arlit (nord du Niger) de cinq Français, d'un Togolais et d'un Malgache. "La prise en otages de vos experts au Niger, qui étaient sous la protection de vos agents est intervenue en réaction à l'injustice que vous pratiquez à l'égard de notre nation islamique", dit le chef d'Al-Qaïda. "Tout comme vous tuez, vous êtes tués. Tout comme vous prenez des prisonniers, vous êtes pris en otages. Comme vous menacez notre sécurité, nous menaçons votre sécurité", ajoute-t-il.

    Al-Qaïda au Maghreb islamique (Aqmi) a revendiqué le 21 septembre l'enlèvement cinq jours plus tôt sur le site d'une mine d'uranium du groupe français Areva à Arlit (nord du Niger) de cinq Français, d'un Togolais et d'un Malgache. Les autorités françaises ont assuré qu'elles étaient prêtes à engager des pourparlers avec Aqmi pour obtenir la libération de ces otages. Selon des sources maliennes et françaises, les otages sont détenus dans des collines désertiques du Timétrine, dans le nord-est du Mali, à une centaine de kilomètres de l'Algérie. Parmi ces otages, la Française Françoise Larribe a peu de temps avant son enlèvement, subi une chimiothérapie, selon un de ses proches. Selon des intermédiaires qui ont rencontré ses ravisseurs, elle a un besoin urgent de soigner un cancer.

    Evoquant l'interdiction du voile intégral en France, ben Laden s'est par ailleurs demandé: "s'il est du droit de la France d'interdire aux femmes libres de porter le voile, n'est-il pas de notre droit de pousser au départ vos hommes envahisseurs en leur tranchant la tête?". Le Parlement français a définitivement voté le 14 septembre l'interdiction du port du voile islamique intégral dans l'espace public, une mesure qui sera effective au printemps 2011. Le dernier message du chef d'Al-Qaïda avait été diffusé début octobre. Il s'inquiétait alors du changement climatique et lançait un appel à l'aide en faveur des victimes des inondations dévastatrices au Pakistan.

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    PARIS, October 8, 2010 — A French official says authorities have released three Algerians without charge after they were arrested on suspicion of links to terrorism. The official says two of them are awaiting expulsion to Algeria because they have no residency papers. The third was freed Friday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the case involves intelligence matters. The three were arrested Tuesday in Marseille and Bordeaux in southern France. Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux said the three were linked to a Frenchman arrested in Italy last month on suspicion of involvement in a terrorist recruiting network for Afghanistan. The arrests came as France and many other European nations have stepped up terrorism vigilance.

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    أوقفت مصالح الأمن الفرنسية 12 شخصا لم تذكر جنسياتهم في إطار تحقيقين في قضيتين مختلفتين بتهمة التخطيط لعمليات إرهابية، واعتقلت وحدة من المديرية المركزية للاستخبارات الداخلية في فرنسا ثلاثة أشخاص قرب مدينة بوردو وفي مرسيليا بعد العثور على بياناتهم بين أغراض رعية جزائري يدعى رياض حنوني (28 عاما) اعتقل يوم السبت الماضي وفي حوزته معدات لصنع متفجرات في مدينة نابولي بإيطاليا، قبل أن يتم تسليمه إلى السلطات الفرنسية التي أصدرت في وقت سابق مذكرة توقيف بحقه في إطار تحقيقات تجري حول الشبكات الباكستانية ـ الأفغانية التي يشتبه في تخطيطها لتنفيذ عمليات إرهابية. وقد أقام حنوني في فرنسا قبل أن يتوجه إلى منطقة القبائل على الحدود الباكستانية الأفغانية. ولدى عودته من المناطق القبلية في باكستان، رصدته الشرطة الإيطالية في نابولي حيث كان يتردد على المساجد المحلية، غير أن مصدرا من الشرطة الفرنسية دعا إلى عدم التسرع في الحكم على مستوى تورط المعتقلين.

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