France braces for new extremists' threats

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PARIS -- The military campaign to stop advancing Islamist insurgents in Mali has been met with a volley of threats from extremists, feeding fears that the French could be targeted in their own country.

Yesterday, security forces stepped up patrols from airports to the Paris Métro to the Eiffel Tower, and the top security official issued a grim warning: the enemy is already here.

France is no stranger to attacks, including those by homegrown terrorists, some with roots in its former colonies. It suffered from bombings in the 1990s linked to the insurgency in Algeria, and just last March, a French-born radical Islamist killed three Jewish children, a rabbi and three paratroopers before being killed himself in a standoff with police.

President François Hollande launched the surprise operation in Mali, a former West African colony, on Friday, with hopes of stopping al-Qaida-linked and other Islamist extremists he believes pose a danger to the world.

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Al-Shabab, a Somali Islamist group, is believed to have killed a French intelligence officer it had held hostage since July 2009 after a failed French raid aimed at saving him that coincided with the start of France's intervention in Mali.

At least seven other French hostages are believed to be held captive in northern Mali, and their fates, too, could be on the line. -- AP

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