On Tuesday, October 29, the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs issued a worldwide consular message warning of an increased terrorism threat against French nationals. The warning comes after a week of increasing tensions and protests in many Muslim-majority countries over anti-terrorism operations in France and related French government statements following several Islamic extremist attacks in the country.
The threat of terrorist attacks against French nationals and interests in Muslim-majority countries in the region is likely to remain elevated in the medium term amid the heightened tensions. Whilst attacks are likely to target major French government and commercial interests, including embassies, consulates, and company offices, the risk of low-level attacks on French nationals is also likely to be elevated in public places.
Tensions over the response of the French government to recent Islamist attacks and terrorism in the country have been increasing since the murder of teacher Samuel Paty by an alleged Islamist extremist in the northern Paris suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine on October 16. The attack prompted an outpouring of support in France and a strong response from the government which saw dozens arrested and several organizations and mosques closed in a widespread crackdown on alleged Islamic extremism. However, comments from President Emmanuel Macron regarding religious rights and freedom of expression and the display of controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad at solidarity rallies following the attack have since prompted accusations of Islamophobia from several Muslim political and religious leaders around the world.
Dozens of protests over the crackdown and French government policies have since been held outside French embassies and consulates in multiple countries over the last week, including Turkey, Bangladesh, Iran, Mali, Mauritania, Libya, Pakistan, and Indonesia, some of which have drawn thousands of participants. There have also been widespread calls for a boycott of French goods, particularly foodstuffs, in Muslim-majority countries, with the protest being supported by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and several other Muslim leaders.
French nationals and those connected with French interests are advised to maintain a low profile in light of the increased terrorism threat and exercise a heightened level of vigilance, immediately reporting any suspicious activity to the local police and relevant authorities. Security is likely to be increased at French embassies and consulates, as well as French commercial properties, but travellers should minimize time spent outside these locations due to the risk of attacks. Travellers should exercise heightened caution if visiting markets, places of worship, tourist sites, and other crowded areas.