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French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve delivers his speech during a press conference in Paris, Monday, Sept. 22, 2014. France’s top security official says militants from the Islamic State group have threatened to kill civilians in the coalition of countries arrayed against the extremists.Christophe Ena/The Associated Press

The threat by Islamic State to take its campaign of violent jihad to the heart of those countries who stand opposed to its extremist agenda has sparked a range of reactions in Western capitals. Governments are scrambling to guard against the risk from home-grown terrorists and from returning citizens who have gone abroad to fight for the IS cause.


Almost half of the 2,000 IS volunteers to have travelled from Europe to Syria and Iraq are reported to have hailed from France. And the focus of French authorities to date has been to try to identify these jihadis when they return. Now, however, the effort is being made to nip the terrorists in the bud.

A law to enable the seizure of passports is being fast-tracked through parliament, as is a bill to make it easier to shut down websites that recruit fighters. As well, police are arresting a growing number of teenagers suspected of making plans for jihad. At least 329 people are reported to be under formal investigation.

France's Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said he is confident in the country's security. "France is not afraid [of Islamic State leaders] because it is prepared to respond to their threats," he said.

France already has begun aerial raids against IS forces in Iraq, which likely explains why the French were singled out in Sunday's threatening IS statement, which described them as "spiteful and filthy."

Mr. Cazeneuve fired back Monday: "This threat to kill civilians, added to the execution of hostages and to the massacres, is yet another demonstration of the barbarism of these terrorists, justifying our fight without truce or pause."


Like Canada, Australia also was named three times in IS's weekend call to arms. "What threat [does Islamic State] pose to the distant place of Australia for it to send its legions [into battle against it]?" asked the IS spokesman.

Those "legions" include eight Australian combat aircraft and some 600 military advisers, including troops from special forces units.

Closer to home, the Australian government announced last week it had carried out raids in Sydney and Brisbane and broken up a plot by IS supporters to abduct and behead a member of the public as part of a larger plan to carry out "demonstration killings."

Prime Minister Tony Abbott warned Australians Monday that the balance between freedom and security "may have to shift," given the "troubling" and "darkening" security situation.


Estimates suggest between 400 and 500 Britons have gone to fight for IS in Syria and Iraq, with a much smaller number going to Syria to help victims in that civil war. One of those seeking to help was Alan Henning, 47, the most recent Western hostage to be threatened with beheading. He was captured by IS forces shortly after arriving in Syria with an ambulance full of food and water destined for victims.

Britain already has taken an active role in censoring content on websites used to recruit IS volunteers and has been granted "super flagger" status on sites such as YouTube, meaning its requests are fast-tracked to remove videos with grisly content or the encouragement of terrorism.

On Monday, the government said it hoped to bolster laws to block returning fighters from re-entering the country and to strengthen monitoring if they do. It proposed a law allowing police to seize passports of those suspected of travelling abroad to fight.

Imams in Britain issued an unprecedented fatwa against Islamic State militants on the weekend, labelling the group "a heretical, extremist organization," and banning British Muslims from joining it.

Meanwhile, Britain still is trying to decide whether to join other coalition members such as the United States, France, Australia and Canada in committing aerial power or ground troops to defeat Islamic State.

Former prime minister Tony Blair wrote Monday that Britain must commit ground troops if it wants to succeed. "Air power alone will not suffice," he said.


Turkey is under increasing pressure to seal its border to stanch the flow of volunteers from across Europe getting to the Islamic State camps in Syria and Iraq. Until now, it has been the main crossing point for jihadis and weapons.

Ironically, Turkish forces on Sunday and Monday prevented Kurds from crossing to join Kurdish fighters who are battling Islamic State forces closing in on Kurdish towns in northern Syria. Kurdish protesters inside Turkey accuse President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Islamist-leaning government of Ahmet Davutoglu of favouring the Islamic State.

Turkey joined the coalition against IS, but has refused to join in the fighting against the extremist group or to allow its bases to be used by coalition forces.

On the weekend, 46 Turkish diplomats and three local staff who had been held hostage for three months by the Islamic State were released and allowed to return to Turkey. Mr. Erdogan denied Turkey had paid a ransom but refused to explain how he won the freedom of the officials and their families. "There were only diplomatic and political negotiations," he said.