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How France Bred Terrorists
France is in the crosshairs of Islamist terrorists, many of them homegrown in the gritty suburbs of its big cities. The south in particular is seen as a breeding ground for jihadists. It’s a big issue in the presidential election.
By Pierre Heumann and Sandra Louven
The Jewish school of Ohr Torah in the southern French city of Toulouse resembles a military camp. It’s surrounded by a fence four meters high and topped with barbed wire. French soldiers guard the building around the clock. In 2012, Mohammed Merah, who was French and whose parents had Algerian roots, killed a rabbi and three children here in the first terrorist attack in France after 15 years of peace.
“Five years on the French state still grants us this protection, which shows that something isn’t right,” said Marc Fridman, regional spokesman of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions. The south of France, especially the region between Toulouse and Montpellier in the southwest, is seen as a breeding ground for terrorism. More than half the country’s anti-terrorism raids take place here.
But the spate of attacks that have hit France since 2012, haven't been confined to this region. Paris saw atrocities in January and November in 2015, and last July a Tunisian-born devotee of Islamic State killed 86 people in the southern city of Nice when he drove his truck along a seafront promenade.