A new generation of French teenagers is being wooed by the Islamic State terrorist group — infamous for its on-camera immolations of captives in Iraq — and seems ominously susceptible to the group’s propaganda, according to the head of France’s DGSI internal security directorate, Nicolas Lerner.
France — home to Europe’s largest Jewish and Muslim populations — has suffered multiple terrorist attacks in the past few months, most recently last weekend near the Eiffel Tower in Paris when a German man was killed and two others were injured. A French prosecutor said the perpetrator had pledged allegiance to Islamic State.
“The three attack plots foiled by the DGSI in 2023 involved individuals who were all under the age of 20,” Lerner said in a Thursday interview with Le Monde, in which he claimed they were members of this group. Lerner used the terms Islamic State and ISIS interchangeably.
“The youngest was 13 years old. Two others were 14 years old. In several of these cases … these young people did not go to mosques or places of socialization: They structured themselves online, on social networks, through a very worrying ideological and digital confinement.”
Lerner said the current conflict between Israel and Hamas has had “undeniably” direct consequences for France.
“Our analysis is that the attraction to jihadist ideology significantly diminished due to the rout of [Islamic State] in the years 2017-2018, especially among the generations that had committed themselves in the early 2010s.
“But ISIS propaganda is now coming back to seduce a new generation of teenagers who, for various reasons — a quest for identity, the echo of a discourse of victimization, or a glorification of violent impulses that they may otherwise feed — are once again showing themselves to be sensitive to this deadly ideology.”
EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson also warned on Tuesday of a “huge risk” of terror attacks in the bloc before Christmas, linking the threat to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.
“Jihadist ideology is not dead,” Lerner said. “ISIS has a new appeal among these younger generations.”