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Diether Endlicher/AP
A French TGV bullet train.

French Authorities Capture Leftist Terrorists

November 13, 2008 03:59 AM
by Isabel Cowles
French authorities have arrested radical guerillas suspected of rail sabotage, including vandalism of power lines.

Guerillas Demonstrate Skill in Rail Attacks

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French authorities have arrested approximately 20 anarchists thought to have sabotaged the nation's high-speed train network over the last few weeks.

French officials hope the capture of these guerillas may put an end to the vandalism that has panicked French travelers; they also hope it will prevent the group from executing larger-scale damage. Police suspect the terrorists might have been preparing attacks with similar radicals in Germany, Belgium and the United Kingdom.

Six incidents of rail sabotage have been recorded since late October, coming to a head on Nov. 8, when guerillas executed a coordinated attack on four different train lines, disrupting nearly 160 TGV (high-speed) trains and leaving thousands of passengers stranded.

The simultaneous hits crowned nearly two years of sporadic railway attacks that had been dismissed as isolated incidents. These coordinated strikes indicate a high degree of technical skill, however: the saboteurs successfully hung metal hooks over 25,000-volt power lines. When passing trains snagged the hooks, the power lines were destroyed.

French Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said that police success in identifying and capturing the perpetrators came after months of investigation by French intelligence and counterterrorist services.

Radical leftist groups have not demonstrated large-scale, organized attacks in France since the 1970s and 1980s, when Action Directe waged urban guerilla warfare throughout the country.
The regrouping of French leftist groups may partly be due to a surge of conservative leadership across Europe. In addition to the notably right-leaning French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the majority of European countries have also selected conservative heads of state. For example, a decade ago, 12 of 14 continental countries were governed by left-leaning politicians; currently only Spain, Portugal and England have liberal leadership.

Reference: Examining France’s radical left

Journalist Henri Astier examines the intellectual and political history of the radical left in France, with a look at how the group and its sub-sections fit into the current political landscape.

Related Topic: Spain cracks down on ETA train attacks

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