France: Gerald Darmanin to discuss security with Tunisia, Algeria

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin will visit Tunisia and Algeria later this week to discuss security matters with his counterparts there, Darmanin told BFM TV on Monday.

Concerns over security and immigration have increased in France after a fatal blade attack at a church in Nice last week, in which three people were killed.

France’s chief anti-terrorism prosecutor has said the man suspected of carrying out the Nice attack was a Tunisian born in 1999 who had arrived in Europe on September 20, landing in Lampedusa, the Italian island off Tunisia. He has been identified as Brahim Issaoui.

France is on edge in the midst of a wave of attacks – three surprisingly fast – after the republication toward the beginning of September of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad by satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

The Prophet is deeply revered by Muslims and any sort of visual depiction is forbidden in Islam. The caricatures in question are seen by them as offensive and Islamophobic because they are perceived to interface Islam with “terrorism”.

The magazine reprinted the caricatures as the trial of the deadly 2015 attack on the magazine’s staff got under way.

Soon after the trial began, an attacker stabbed people outside Charlie Hebdo’s former offices. In mid-October, teacher Samuel Paty, who had demonstrated his students the cartoons of the Prophet, was beheaded in broad daylight close to Paris. Then came the Nice attack. And on Saturday, an attacker shot a Greek Orthodox priest at point-blank reach before escaping in the French city of Lyon.

Nikolaos Kakavelaki, 52, was shutting his church when he was attacked and is now in serious condition.

A suspect was initially detained, but was released on Sunday after investigators found no evidence he was connected to the shooting.

Prosecutors say they are keeping all hypotheses open but so far have not referred the case to anti-terror colleagues. The gunman is still at large.

French President Emmanuel Macron had vowed after the beheading of Paty earlier this month that France could never renounce the right to publish the caricatures.

This comment prompted a storm of anger in the Muslim world, with furious protests held in numerous countries.

In an interview with Al Jazeera over the weekend, Macron said he understood why Muslims felt shocked by the cartoons, but added his role was to “promote quiet and also to protect these rights”.

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