A San Diego man who just returned from a trip to his native France said today French citizens — even those a long distance from Paris — have been closely following news of this week’s attack that killed a dozen people at the Paris offices of a satirical magazine.
Gilles Bonkoski, the executive director of the French American Chamber of Commerce branch in San Diego, returned Thursday following a three-week holiday visit to an area between the cities of Strasbourg and Metz in the Alsace and Lorraine regions of eastern France.
He spoke to City News Service not long after two of the suspects in Wednesday’s assault on the Charlie Hebdo magazine, brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, were gunned down after being cornered by security forces northeast of Paris.
Officials believe the brothers and Mourad Hamyd, who turned himself in, are connected with al-Qaida in Yemen, which has called for attacks on Western targets.
French police said they’ve thwarted five planned terrorist attacks since summer 2013.
“The police and investigators are very good at preventing attacks,” Bonkoski said. “Each time (an attack happens) the population is shocked. It’s not the first time and it may not be the last.”
He said that despite not being in Paris, the French capital where the newspaper attack took place, it was easy to sense the concern of the French people, especially since France is not as big a country as the United States.
“Strasbourg is only one or two hours from Paris by fast train,” Bonkoski said. “Everybody followed the news on TV, on social media and the radio.”
He said France, which has a large number of Muslim immigrants, is as much at risk for terrorism as the United States or England, and around 700 people are considered risky.
Wednesday, UC San Diego professor Eli Berman said western Europe and the United States face a threat from hundreds of militants who fought in recent Middle Eastern conflicts and returned home, where they speak the language and know the culture.
Bonkoski, who has lived in San Diego for three years, flew home via the international airport in Luxembourg, which is near his parents’ residence, so he didn’t return via Paris.
—City News Service
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