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"The threat of a terrorist attack in France has never been greater," DCRI chief Bernard Squarcini told

The head of French counter-intelligence Central Directorate of Interior Intelligence (DCRI), Bernard Squarcini, believes that the threat of a terrorist attack in France "has never been greater,"

"We are now at the same level of threats than that of 1995" when the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) killed eight people during attacks against metro stations in Paris, he told the French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche.

"All the indicators are 'red'," he added. "Today, in view of reports that are provided to us by our foreign partners and our own observations, there are objective reasons to be concerned. The threat has never been greater." he stressed.

He explained that the threat in France is threefold: "the French convert who is radicalized and set up his operation alone, Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which dispatches a squad to carry out attacks in France and the French jihadists, those who go to Afghanistan, Yemen or Somalia and returning illegally tomorrow, seasoned, to continue their fight on French soil. "

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"We expect to see attacks taking place on our territory," he stated. AQIM is a franchise of al-Qaeda: they try to follow the same objectives as the parent group. "15 years ago, when we suffered a series of attacks in 1995, the threat came to us only from east Algiers. (Today), it has greatly expanded." AQIM was formerly known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), itself a splinter group of the GIA formed in 1998.

He reiterated that French intelligence services thwart on average two attacks per year and which were due to be carried out on French soil.

A positive point, however, DCRI chief refuted any significant radicalization of Muslims in France. "Among 6 million Muslims in France, there may be 300 individuals who pose a problem," he said.

During the 1990s, French intelligence services have gained considerable experience (pdf) and a belief that the threat remains, hence maintaining the public vigilance program Vigipirate at its second highest level. The debate on banning the full veil and the recent Franco-Mauritanian joint operation to free the French hostage Michel Germaneau from AQIM are evidence of the important part played by France in global counter-terrorism.

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