For France there exists the possibility that Islamic terrorists may target its presidential election next weekend,after the al-Qaida-claimed suicide bombings in its former colony Algeria struck too close to home.
Mindful of Spain's experience in 2004, when Islamic terrorists bombed trains just three days before parliamentary elections, anti-terrorism officials in France have for months factored in the risk of terror attacks in the policing plans for the April 22-May 6 two-round vote.
"We are being extremely vigilant. France faces a real, varied, multiple terrorist threat," said Interior Minister Francois Baroin after the car bombings of the prime minister's office and a police station in Algeria's capital on Wednesday killed 33 people and injured more than 200.
France's terror alert level remained on red, the second-highest notch. But Baroin noted that regional officials have been ordered to "redouble their attention." On April 6, he said that extra security measures were in place.
"It has happened in other European countries, incidents during an electoral campaign. It is a reality, and France is taking that into account," he said at the time.
France's multidimensional ties with Algeria have long made it a target for Islamic insurgents fighting the military-backed secular government in the oil- and gas-rich north African country.
Algeria's main insurgency group has been allied with al-Qaida since at least last September. In an Internet video posted in January, its leader accused France and the United States of "looting" Algeria with the help of its president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, and warned: "We are coming with all God's might."
"The main terrorist threat in France comes from Algeria," French presidential front-runner and former Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said Thursday on Europe-1 radio. France arrested 138 people last year and 32 so far this year in terror investigations, he noted.
An aim of Al-Qaida's new wing in North Africa is to unite Islamic militants into a region-wide structure, both to destabilize the area and "to carry the sword in Europe, particularly in France," renowned French anti-terror investigating judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere said on France-3 television.
"France is without question at the heart of the threat."
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