A new generation of French teenagers is being courted by the Islamic State terrorist group – infamous for its on-camera immolations of captives in Iraq – and appears dangerously susceptible to the group’s propaganda, according to the head of the country’s internal security directorate. the DGSI, Nicolas Lerner. .
France – home to Europe’s largest Jewish and Muslim population – has suffered several terrorist attacks in recent months, most recently last weekend near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, when a German man was killed and two others injured. A French prosecutor said the perpetrator had pledged allegiance to Islamic State.
“The three attack plots foiled by the DGSI in 2023 involved individuals under the age of 20,” Lerner said in an interview with Le Monde on Thursday, in which he affirmed that they were members of this group. Lerner used the terms Islamic State and ISIS interchangeably.
“The youngest was 13 years old. Two others were 14 years old. In several of these cases… these young people did not go to mosques or places of socialization: they structured themselves online, on social networks, through a very worrying ideological and digital confinement.
Lerner said the current conflict between Israel and Hamas has had “undeniably” direct consequences for France.
“Our analysis is that the attraction to jihadist ideology has declined considerably due to the rout of (the Islamic State) in the years 2017-2018, particularly among the generations who had engaged in the early 2010s.
“But ISIS propaganda is returning today to seduce a new generation of adolescents who, for various reasons – quest for identity, echo of a discourse of victimization or glorification of violent impulses that they might otherwise fuel – are once again demonstrating that they are sensitive to this deadly ideology.
EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson also warned on Tuesday of a “huge risk” of terrorist attacks in the bloc before Christmas, linking the threat to the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.
“Jihadist ideology is not dead,” Lerner said. “IS has a new appeal among these younger generations. »