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French senator warns of ISIS attack over monitoring failings on anniversary of Strasbourg atrocity

French senator Nathalie Goulet warns France’s terror surveillance systems are inadequate

French police secure an area after shooting dead gunman Cherif Chekatt who killed five people at a Christmas market in Strasbourg. Reuters
French police secure an area after shooting dead gunman Cherif Chekatt who killed five people at a Christmas market in Strasbourg. Reuters

A major European counterterrorism politician has warned that France’s monitoring of extremists is still failing a year after a terror attack in Strasbourg.

ISIS extremist Cherif Chekatt killed five people and wounded 11 others during a shooting and stabbing spree at Strasbourg’s Christmas market a year ago.

He had been on a terror watchlist, known as Fiche S, when he committed the atrocity and is believed to have become radicalised in prison.

It has raised questions over the effectiveness of the scheme.

Now French senator Nathalie Goulet is warning more attacks are likely as the country’s monitoring systems are failing.

There are believed to be 20,000 people on the list, 12,000 for suspected Islamist radical behaviour, however only a dozen are thought to be under 24-hour surveillance.

It comes as hundreds of convicted terrorists are expected to finish their prison sentences shortly and France is one of a number of European countries awaiting the return of ISIS fighters being sent back from Syria.

“We still have a lot to do a year on from the attack,” she said.

“In France we have a serious problem and we need to do more to prevent extremists from acting. As it stands there will be more attacks.

“All kinds of deradicalisation programmes we have tried have failed badly. All the systems in place are inadequate because we do not have the resources.

“Strasbourg highlighted the failings in the scheme and a year on things have not changed. Being on the list doesn’t mean the individuals are guilty, it is just a presumption to try and draw attention to the police. We cannot put them on electronic surveillance because of the rule of law that we have but we need to do more to prevent them from acting.

“We have not got a clue with how to deal with the situation.

“We could see an attack similar to the recent London Bridge terror incident due to monitoring failings. It could be replicated here in France.”

Her warning follows an awkward exchange between US President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron at last week’s NATO summit.

Mr Trump is pressuring European governments to repatriate their ISIS fighters.

Last week he said to Mr Macron: "Would you like some nice ISIS fighters? I can give them to you."

It follows comments he made in the summer threatening to drop thousands of ISIS extremists back into Europe.

"We're holding thousands of ISIS fighters right now, and Europe has to take them," he had said.

"If Europe doesn't take them, I'll have no choice but to release them into the countries from which they came, which is Germany and France and other places."

An attempt to create deradicalisation centres in France failed after just five months in 2017.

Last week France repatriated four women and seven children linked to ISIS in the latest wave of extraditions from Turkey.

“We are unprepared for the returning ISIS fighters,” Ms Goulet added.

“There is not enough money in the security budget to fund more human resources.

“We have to be more ready and unfortunately we are not.”

Strasbourg attacker Chekatt, 29, was shot dead by police after a two-day manhunt.

Deputy interior minister, Laurent Nuñez, said Chekatt was being watched in a “relatively serious manner” prior to the attack.

He was due to be arrested for a different crime just hours before the incident and had been on the watchlist for two years.

The 450-year-old market, which attracts 2m visitors every year, was reopened last month with increased security measures.

Updated: December 11, 2019 05:14 PM

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