Islamists threaten France over headscarves

An Islamic group calling itself "Servants of Allah the Powerful and Wise" issued warnings yesterday of a possible terrorist attacks against French interests.

In letters addressed to the French Prime Minister, Jean Pierre Raffarin, and several newspapers, the previously unknown group said France had become an "an enemy of Islam" because of its government's ban on headscarves in schools.

"A heavy offensive will take place on the grounds of the allies of Satan and we are going to plunge France into terror and remorse," the letter stated, according to Le Parisien newspaper, which received a copy. Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said the government took Islamist threats seriously but warned against panic. France 2 television channel received a letter which stated: "We have to keep calm. We are in a country which must not be afraid." Officials did not disclose the nature of the threats.

The letter was signed by "Commando Movsar Barayev", an apparent reference to the Chechen rebel leader allegedly behind a deadly hostage-taking raid on a Moscow theatre in October.

"With this headscarf law, you have participated in an unjust aggression," the letter stated. "You have decided on your own to put yourself on the list of Islam's worst enemies."

The group said it was waiting for "three signs" before taking action. It said the first was National Assembly vote on the headscarf law in February, the second was an "explicit" signal from Osama bin Laden's lieutenant Ayman al-Zawahri. It did not disclose the third sign.