France aims to crack down on hate speech

Lori Hinnant
Associated Press

Paris — France ordered prosecutors around the country to crack down on hate speech, anti-Semitism and those glorifying terrorism and announced Wednesday it was sending an aircraft carrier to the Middle East to work more closely with the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State militants.

Authorities said 54 people had been arrested for hate speech and defending terrorism since terror attacks killed 20 people in Paris last week, including three gunmen. The crackdown came as Charlie Hebdo’s defiant new issue sold out before dawn around Paris, with scuffles at kiosks over dwindling copies of the satirical weekly that fronted the Prophet Muhammad anew on its cover.

President Francois Hollande, speaking aboard the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier to members of the military, said the situation “justifies the presence of our aircraft carrier.”

One of the Paris gunmen had claimed allegiance to the Islamic State group, while two others said they were backed by Yemen’s al-Qaida branch. France is already carrying out airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq.

A published report said a search of a house of accomplice of a gunman has enabled police to identity a potential fourth attacker.

A top leader of Yemen’s al-Qaida branch claimed responsibility Wednesday for the Charlie Hebdo massacre that left 12 dead at the paper, saying in a video the massacre came in “vengeance for the prophet.” The newspaper had received repeated threats previously for posting caricatures of Muhammad.

A high-ranking French intelligence official told the Associated Press on Wednesday that authorities see the claim as “opportunistic” and that AQAP appears to have served as an inspiration instead of orchestrating the attacks. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to be able to discuss sensitive intelligence matters.

US intelligence officials, however, said they have no evidence AQAP coordinated the attack or knew about it in advance. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss classified matters publicly.

Since the attacks, France has deployed 10,000 troops and 120,000 security forces in an area the size of Texas to protect sensitive sites, including Jewish schools and synagogues, mosques and travel hubs. French police say as many as six members of the terror cell may still be at large.

Jury delay rejected

Jury selection will continue in Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s trial after a federal judge on Wednesday rejected the Boston Marathon bombing suspect’s bid to suspend it because of the Paris terror attacks. Individual questioning of prospective jurors begins Thursday.