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Muslim group threatens France

Group plans to inflict 'terror into the heart of the French people'


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PARIS, France (CNN) -- French police have opened an investigation after a Paris newspaper received a letter from a Muslim group threatening spectacular attacks that would make "blood run to (its) borders."

The letter, from a previously unknown group calling itself the "Servants of Allah the Mighty and the Wise," said it planned to take action after Muslim girls were banned from wearing headscarves in schools.

The bill was passed last month by the National Assembly.

"You have let loose on yourself a river of hate and ignorance, not only toward Muslims but toward Islam itself," the letter, addressed to Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said.

"We will plunge France into terror and remorse, and we will make blood run to your borders."

Describing France as a country of "wine, pigs, loose morals and nudity," the group said it planned to use attack techniques imported from Gaza and Chechnya that "have never been used in the West until now."

The letter, postmarked from Paris and sent to the chief editor of "Le Parisien," urged Muslims to stay out of crowded areas.

"Europe is a new war zone for the Jihad," it says. "Know that our fight has only just begun."

'Not be secure'

The French Justice Department is working with the anti-terror criminal brigade, while authorities are still trying to confirm the letter's authenticity.

The paper had planned not to run the letter, but did so after authorities urged them to publish it.

In it, the group mentions the September 11 terror attacks against the United States and the recent train bombings in Spain that killed 201 people.

The group claims its members are in France, "ready to give their lives" and inflict "terror into the heart of the French people."

"France will not be secure in its own country nor at its interests abroad."

The group said it was waiting for three signs before moving forward: the headscarf vote; a "clear and explicit" signal from Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda's second in command; and a third signal it cannot reveal.

Last month, al-Zawahiri released an audiotape in which he criticized France for banning headscarves in schools, saying it is: "Another proof of the crusaders' hatred toward Muslims."

"When you are France, the land of freedom, you are free to get naked but you are not free to be decent and cover yourself up," he said.

The letter urges the National Assembly to reverse the headscarf bill or face the consequences.

"This law is like a declaration of war directed at the Muslim world. If you don't retract that law immediately, we will respond strongly and severely with amazing intensity in your country."

The letter was signed with the name "Commando Movsar Barayev," on behalf of the group.

Movsar Barayev is the name of the Chechen rebel and alleged leader of a deadly hostage-taking raid on a theater in Moscow in October 2002.

The raid ended when Russian special forces piped gas into the theater, and a shootout ensued. A total of 129 people -- most of them hostages -- were killed. Barayev was among those who died in the siege.

Before news of the letter was released, French President Jacques Chirac said France was not under direct threat of attack "but, as are all the democracies, it is not safe from terrorist attacks."

"Europe will protect its citizens," he said in Paris during a visit by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

"The international community must stick together to fight terrorism, with all its might and without stopping."

The European Union is set to hold an emergency meeting of interior and justice ministers on Friday before a summit of European leaders on March 25-26, where terrorism is sure to overshadow scheduled talks on economic reforms.


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