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The Mistral-class assault warship Sevastopol (L), the second of two mammoth Mistral helicopter carriers, is docked on Nov. 21, 2014 near the Russian training ship, Smolny (R), in the western French port of Saint-Nazaire after being taken overnight from its dry dock. © AFP
France suspended indefinitely on Tuesday delivery of the first of two Mistral helicopter carrier warships to Russia, citing conflict in eastern Ukraine where the West accuses Moscow of fomenting separatism.
Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov told RIA news agency Russia would not for now pursue claims against France over non-delivery, but expected the contract to be fulfilled.
“We are satisfied with everything, it’s the French who are not satisfied. We will wait patiently,” Borisov was quoted as saying. “Everything is laid down in the contract, we will act in accordance with the letter of the contract as all civilized people do.”
France has been under pressure for months from its Western allies to scrap the 1.2 billion euro ($1.58 billion) contract, but faces potential compensation claims if it breaches terms. Suspension of contracts is a sensitive issue at a time when France is finalizing other military deals.
“The President of the Republic considers that the situation in the east of Ukraine still does not permit the delivery of the first BPC (helicopter carrying and command vessel),” said a statement from President Francois Hollande’s office.
“He has therefore decided that it is appropriate to suspend, until further notice, examination of the request for the necessary authorization to export the first BCP to the Russian Federation.”
An aerial view shows the Mistral-class helicopter carrier Vladivostok constructed for Russia at the STX Les Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard site in the port of Montoir-de-Bretagne near Saint Nazaire, western France, September 22, 2014. CREDIT: REUTERS/STEPHANE MAHE
The United Nations says over 4,300 people have been killed in a pro-Russian separatist insurrection in eastern Ukraine which the West says Moscow has promoted. Russia for its part denies any involvement but accuses the Ukrainian military of using indiscriminate violence against civilians.
“You will even fear travelling to the market,”
French ISIS fighter. (Courtesy of YouTube)
Staff writer | Al Arabiya News.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group has released a video showing several French-speaking fighters calling on Muslims in France to launch a terror campaign at home.
The video, which according to the Guardian was released by ISIS’ media wing Al Hayat Media Department, shows a group of unmasked fighters around a fire in a wooded area, burning what appear to be their French passports.
One of the masked men can be heard saying: “We disbelieve in you and your passports, and if you come here we will fight you.”
France is a member of the international coalition fighting the militant group, although it has restricted its operation to Iraq, one of the two countries ISIS has managed to gain a foothold in. On Wednesday, Paris said it had increased the number of warplanes involved in the campaign.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls says that “close to 50” French citizens have been killed fighting alongside Islamist militants in Syria.
Around 1,000 French nationals are thought to have taken part in the conflict in Syria and Iraq, with 375 currently there, the government has said.
French ISIS fighters have been implicated in the recent beheading of a group of Syrians that the group posted in a video online.
According to the Guardian, one of the fighters in the video identified as Abu Osama al-Faranci castigates French Muslims for not emigrating to ISIS’ so-called state.
A second fighter identified as Abu Maryam al-Faranci says the “mujahideen” will not hesitate to chop the heads of the “enemies of Islam,” the daily reported.
“You will even fear travelling to the market,” he said.
Abu Salman al-Faranci, another fighter, suggests that those who cannot join ISIS abroad “should “operate within France.”
“Terrorize them and do not allow them to sleep due to fear and horror,” he added.
“Do whatever you can to humiliate them,” he said.
ISIS has released similar propaganda videos aimed at recruiting Muslims from different parts of the world, including Europe and Australia.
Earlier this week, French President Francois Hollande voiced concern about the phenomena of Westerners joining ISIS, which has proclaimed a “caliphate” stretching parts of Iraq and Syria, and slammed how the recruits had been “brainwashed”.
Foreign imams could be obliged to hold an officially recognised religious qualification before being allowed to preach.
Muslim men take part in an outdoor prayer session on Place de la Madeleine in Paris. There are about 1,800 imams working in France. Photograph: EPA/Corbis
Foreign Islamic preachers will be obliged to take an officially recognised diploma before being allowed to work in France, under measures being considered by the French government.
The new rules, if adopted, would affect more than 70% of imams and Muslim community leaders in France and are aimed at combatting the spread of Islamist extremism and the radicalisation of young people.
An unpublished report, obtained by the Guardian, suggests officials should introduce measures to control who influences France’s Muslim population of about 5.5 million people.
Formal and “universal” training for Muslim religious leaders, it says, will discourage extremism, lead to greater integration and put imams on a level with clergy from other main religions.
However, Marco Ventura, a professor of law and religion at the University of Leuven in Belgium, who has seen the report, said it raised the controversial question of government meddling in religion. “This would be state intervention that reached to the heart of the Muslim community and affected its internal organisation,” he said.
“In many ways, though, it represents a return to 19th-century ideas of involving the state in religious training with the aim of modernisation. In those days, the targets were Jews and Christians. The document itself makes the point that there are precedents for what is being suggested.”
French officials estimate there are 1,800 imams working in the country, only 25-30% of whom hold French nationality. Of the 1,800, only 800 at most are paid either part- or full-time. Almost all of those receiving a salary are from Turkey, Algeria and Morocco, and have been trained in their respective countries.
The report, by Prof Francis Messner, an Islamic studies expert and director of research at France’s National Centre for Scientific Research, suggests the introduction of more degree courses in at higher education colleges.
The course syllabus should include secular civic studies, humanities, science and other religions, it says. Diplomas in Islamic theology from private colleges would be officially recognised only if they included these subjects.
Messner said existing theological instruction for priests, pastors and rabbis had set a precedent. This teaching is intended to “avoid the creation of counter-societies preaching the supremacy of divine law over human law … [and] encourage the education of a tolerant, enlightened clergy … [that is] tolerant of other religious traditions or other forms of thought”.
The report recognises the difficulty of imposing training on Islamic preachers and giving them an official status because of the lack of a structured clergy in Islam, and the “multitude of associations or federations that are sometimes under the control of foreign states”. It adds: “The absence of a status defined by the religion itself, has produced the multiplying of self-proclaimed religious leaders.”
The report recognises that since 2008, France has created a “well-structured civic- and civil-training network for religious leaders, particularly Muslim religious leaders”, but says there must be more universities offering religious diplomas as well as centres of excellence in Islamic humanities and social sciences.
“The obtaining of a visa for foreign religious leaders wanting to work in France could be made conditional of them agreeing to study for a university diploma and, consequently, proving their good command of French,” the report suggests. “The recruitment of chaplains in the army, hospitals and prison establishments, who are public agents paid by the authorities, should be reserved for those candidates holding an university degree in civil and civic studies.”
Ventura said the report would trigger a debate on whether a neutral state should go that far. “But it is not clear whether the Muslims themselves will be opposed to these proposals. In Morocco and Turkey, for example, they are used to the idea of the state intervening actively in the affairs of the mosque. The proposals could also have implications for Christians – churches who bring in priests and vicars from abroad would presumably be subject to the same rules,” he said.
In a letter commissioning the report last year, French interior and education ministers wrote: “It is not intended in any way to enter into the theological content of the programmes which, in our republic, is exclusively the responsibility of the religious authorities.”
The report comes as France investigates two men believed to be involved in the beheadings of 18 Syrian soldiers and the US aid worker Peter Kassig in Syria.
Maxime Hauchard, 22,from Normandy, and Michaël Dos Santos, 22, from Champigny-sur-Marne, were named by the French interior ministry after being identified in the Islamic State (Isis) video of the murders released on Sunday. Intelligence officers believe the two jihadis were radicalised through the internet.
The ministry released figures this week stating that 1,132 French citizens were implicated in Isis, either as would-be fighters or suppliers of false papers. There are believed to be about 376 French Isis fighters, while dozens more are believed to be on their way or to have returned.
The interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, said 138 suspected Islamists in France were under investigation or in prison and had been neutralised.
Emergence of video showing four men comes as France reels from the identification of two of its nationals partaking in a mass beheading in Syria.
The militants burn what appear to be several French passports in a campfire.
Shiv Malik, The Guardian.
A film released by the Islamic State (ISIS) shows jihadi fighters burning French passports and calling on others to bring terror to the streets of the European country.
Released by one of Isis’s main media outlets, Al Hayat, the video shows four men who purport to be from France, including three who deliver messages in French to camera.
Burning what appear to be several French passports in a campfire, a masked man can be heard saying: “We disbelieve in you and your passports, and if you come here we will fight you.”
The emergency of the video comes as France has been rocked by the identification of two of their nationals in a mass beheading of Syrian government soldiers filmed in gruesome detail.
Prosecutors have identified Maxime Hauchard, 22 a Muslim convert from northern France and Parisian Michaël Dos Santos, also 22, as being part of a band of more than a dozen Isis militants seen to be killing tied-up government soldiers.
Sitting with a rifle at his shoulder in a wooded area among a crowd of several other armed combatants wearing balaclavas, a man identified as Abu Osama al-Faranci goes on to castigate French Muslims for not emigrating to the Islamic state.
Holding a serrated short sword, a second fighter identified as Abu Maryam Al Faranci says the mujahideen will not hesitate to chop the heads of the “enemies of Islam”. “You will even fear travelling to the market,” he says.
Referring to France’s laws on public dress which make it unlawful to cover one’s face in public, he says: “Just wearing the niqab [face veil] is very difficult.”
Another fighter simply identified as Abu Salman al-Faranci says that he has pledged an oath of allegiance to Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and suggests that those who cannot join the ranks of Isis in Syria or Iraq should “operate within France”.
He adds: “Terrorise them and do not allow them to sleep due to fear and horror.”
“Do whatever you can to humiliate them,” he says, adding that he hoped that the next generation of children who grew up in Islamic State would be raised to fight the west.
This latest video is similar to other propaganda films by British, German, Chechen and Australian jihadis issued in recent months and aimed at recruiting young men and women to join Isis.
Members of the Islamic State jihadist group, among them a jihadist believed to be French citizen Maxime Hauchard (R), also known as Abu Abdallah al-Faransi, are shown in this video still released November 16, 2014 by Al-Furqan Media
French President Francois Hollande on Wednesday confirmed that two Frenchmen had been identified as suspects in an Islamic State video showing the beheading of Syrian prisoners.
The men are seen in the brutal clip released by the IS group on Sunday which features the killing of 18 Syrian prisoners and a US aid worker.
“All we can say for now is that there were two French people,” he told a press conference in Canberra alongside Australian leader Tony Abbott.
“One has been categorically identified and the other one is in the process of being identified.”
French prosecutors have confirmed the first was 22-year-old Maxime Hauchard from Normandy in northern France but the identity of what they said was a possible second Frenchman was not given.
Hollande said it was not clear exactly what role the men played in the beheadings and that “the judicial system will have to establish this”.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in Paris that Hauchard left for Syria “in August 2013 after a stay in Mauritania in 2012″ after reportedly becoming radicalised online.
Around 1,000 French nationals are thought to have taken part in the conflict in Syria and Iraq, with around 375 currently there, the government has said. At least 36 have died there.
Hollande said the issue of foreign fighters and how they were being “brainwashed” was a major concern.
“They could be from any background, from any ethnic origin, but they easily can be brainwashed into becoming converts, and this is a very important matter,” he said.
“We must be vigilant, and we must be strong.
“We must be firm in terms of the networks and in terms of these foreign fighters themselves who will have to face the consequences of their actions before the judicial system when at one point or another they are able to be apprehended, whether in France or abroad.”
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