Perhaps attracted by the congenial surroundings, “French Islamist militants, who later spent time in al-Qaida military camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan and went on to became soldiers of the jihad, underwent their first group training exercises in the bucolic surroundings of the forest of Fontainebleau, investigators said yesterday.” This from the Guardian, with thanks to CruxNews.
“‘We call them the Old Campers,’ said a police officer working with judge Jean-Louis BruguiÃ¨re, France’s leading anti-terrorist investigating magistrate. ‘They trained in the forest near Paris, and also in the Alps near Annecy. At least one later died fighting with al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan.’ . . .
“Several times during night exercises in the Alps, the magazine said, frightened would-be Islamist fighters from France’s big-city suburbs got lost in the mountains and had to use their mobile phones to be rescued by gendarmes. One reportedly fell into a crevasse.
“‘They were not very advanced affairs,’ the police officer said. ‘We believe they were used as a sort of preliminary weeding-out procedure, to see who was capable of going further down the road. Some participants who ended up not leaving France worked in support and logistics for terrorist projects that were mounted here.’
“The more successful ‘Old Campers’ went to training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2000 and 2001.
“Meanwhile, the head of France’s DST intelligence agency said yesterday that France had successfully foiled ‘quite a few’ terrorist plots.
“Pierre de Bousquet de Florian said some 120 suspects had been arrested in France since the September 11 attacks, and that half of them had been convicted of membership of a terrorist organisation.”