Gavin Mortimer Gavin Mortimer

Islamic State will want a landslide victory for Marine Le Pen

Yassine was one of the most popular teaching assistants at his primary school in Strasbourg. What is known in the French school system as an ‘animateur’, Yassine supervised the kids during their lunchbreak and in after-school activities. ‘Nice,’ ‘sociable’ and ‘attentive’ have been some of the words used by parents this week to describe the 37-year-old. Yassine had worked part-time at the school for a decade before he was taken on permanently in 2014 because of his popularity with the kids.

Last weekend Yassine B [his surname hasn’t been disclosed] was arrested by the French security services after an eight-month surveillance operation. When police raided his flat they allegedly discovered a letter of allegiance to Islamic State and two handguns. It has subsequently been claimed in the French media that Yassine spent the 2015 summer holidays in Syria, planning with the other members of the terrorist cell a series of simultaneous attacks in Paris on December 1. Among the intended targets, reported French media on Thursday, were the Champs-Elysées Christmas market, tourist bars and the headquarters of the DGSI [direction générale de la Sécurité intérieure], an intelligence service.

Yassine’s arrest stunned staff and parents at the school. One mother spoke of her ‘incomprehension’ that the smiling Yassine, rarely seen out of his designer trainers, was in the advanced stages of launching an Islamic attack against his own people. Another bewildered parent reflected that we ‘never know what goes on in someone’s head’. Yassine’s family, however, deny he’s a terrorist, telling reporters the investigators were ‘on a false trail’, adding: ‘How do you want to be a terrorist if you drink alcohol [and] smoke hash…he’s anti-Daesh.’ At a press conference Mathieu Cahn, deputy mayor of Strasbourg, admitted the school and the education authority were ‘shaken’ at the arrest. Asked if there had been any warning signs about Yassine he replied in the negative.

The arrest of the terrorist cell, and particularly the revelation that one of the five men was, on the surface, fully integrated into French society, is more political capital for Marine Le Pen’s National Front ahead of next year’s presidential election.

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