Saturday, November 15, 2008

French TVG high speed train and a surveillance camera still of the NYC "bicycle bomber"

France - Anarchists in three cities across France were arrested by anti-terror police Tuesday morning and accused of being responsible for a campaign of sabotage that severely disrupted rail travel throughout the country. It is believed that the campaign was designed to protest nuclear technology and coincided with the transfer of nuclear waste from France to Germany. Attacks on the railway lines were characterized by debris left on the tracks, shooting out power lines, and iron bars jammed into the overhead 25,000-volt power lines and left more than 150 high-speed TGV trains across the country hours behind schedule. Initially 20 accused radicals were arrested, but now only nine remain to face charges Five of those accused are women and four are men.

No acts of sabotage have been reported since the police roundup, which took place the same day that the nuclear waste transfer was completed. On the German side of the border the deadly shipments where delivered 20 hours behind schedule thanks to nearly 16,000 mostly passive demonstrators who built barricades, took part in protest and acts of civil-disobedience.

The group, some of whom are based on a rural commune in the tiny village of Tarnac located in the Corrèze region of central France, are alleged to have ties to like minded groups in Germany, Belgium, Greece, Italy, the U.K., and the U.S.. Last January two of those arrested Julien Coupat, 34, and Yldune L, 25 were detained attempting to illegally cross the U.S. border into Canada, while in possession of English language anarchist texts and photos of the Time's Square army recruitment center weeks before a lone bicyclist detonated a homemade bomb at the center. No one was injured by the bombing which echoed similar attacks on the British and Mexican consulates and were believed to be possibly connected to anarchists.

Coupat and L were no longer in the U.S. at the time of the recruitment center attack but were surveilled attending anarchist meetings during their stay in New York City. After the border incident the FBI asked French authorities to keep tabs on the pair and alerted the press about a possible French connection. Upon their return to France the French domestic intelligence service then began a surveillance operation that culminated in these arrests.

Coupat has been labeled "the leader" of the anarcho-autonomist group dubbed "the invisible cell." He is a former sociology student and faces up to 20 years in jail if convicted of heading a terrorist organization. Other alleged participants in the vandalism face charges of causing damage, criminal conspiracy and participation in a terrorist enterprise. No one was injured by any actions taken against the rail lines or by the bombing of the Times Square army recruitment center in NYC.

Authorities have said that they were able to recover fingerprints and DNA evidence from the sites of the sabotage but at least some of the suspects have refused to submit to DNA tests and it has not so far been relieved that any of the fingerprints match. A search of the Corrèze property allegedly yielded railway network maps, material that might be used for sabotage, anarchist literature and documents on how to attack overhead cables.

Neighbors of the Tarnac farm where many of the accused live have formed a support committee to aid the arrestees. Jean Plazanet, the town's mayor, said that Coupat "is of great intelligence and kindness" and that the media's portrayal of him and his housemates was inaccurate.