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France to create regional ‘de-radicalisation’ centres: PM

The centres covering all 12 of France’s regions will take people referred by the justice system and try to stop them being sucked into jihadist networks where they could mount attacks.

world Updated: May 09, 2016 21:28 IST
France
French PM Manuel Valls at a news conference following a government meeting on radicalisation and the fight against terrorism in Paris on Monday. (REUTERS)

France will create regional centres to de-radicalise people and prevent them joining jihadist groups, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Monday, as he laid out measures in response to last year’s terror attacks that killed 147 people.

The centres covering all 12 of France’s regions will take people referred by the justice system and try to stop them being sucked into jihadist networks where they could mount attacks, Valls said.

“The fight against jihadism is without doubt the big challenge of our generation,” Valls said, flanked by the interior and justice ministers.

The anti-terror plan, which will cost an additional 40 million euros ($45.5 million) by 2018 on top of current funding, aims to double existing efforts to try to help people already in jihadist networks or those likely to join such groups.

Read: ‘Belgium dropped probe into Paris attackers before massacre’

Read: French TV station airs footage of suicide bombing during Paris attacks

Around 1,600 young people in France are in state-run de-radicalisation programmes. The new scheme aims to bring that number up to 3,600 within two years.

The government believes nearly 9,300 people in France have been radicalised and are capable of violent actions as a result.

In 2015, France was rocked by two sets of attacks that were carried out mainly by French citizens who had become radicalised and had fought abroad alongside jihadist groups.

Jihadist gunmen stormed the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper and a Jewish supermarket in January 2015, killing 17 people, and then 130 people were killed in coordinated shootings and suicide bombings in the capital claimed by the Islamic State group last November.

Read: Salah Abdeslam slapped with terror charges over Paris attacks

Valls said at least half of the new de-radicalisation centres will take people at the request of the judicial authorities. They will be individuals “who cannot be put in prison”.

The first centre could be set up by this summer, he added.

The network of centres will be overseen by a “national coordination and support unit”.

Under the new anti-terror plans, applicants for security-sensitive jobs -- in airports, for example -- will face extra vetting to weed out anyone with extremist sympathies.

The vetting “will be extended to the staff who are preparing major events”, Valls said, just over a month before the Euro 2016 football championships begin in France.