After The Latest Paris Terror Attack, Gov’t Databases of Security Suspects Come Under Fresh Scrutiny

By Fayçal Benhassain | May 16, 2018 | 2:51 AM EDT

The scene of the deadly knife attack in the Opera district, central Paris on Saturday. (Screen capture: YouTube)

Paris ( – A lethal terror attack in central Paris carried out by a Chechen-born French citizen, has prompted fresh criticism of the government’s approach to terror suspects, after it emerged that the perpetrator had been listed for several years on two security databases.

Khamzat Azimov, 20, stabbed four people, one fatally, before being killed by security forces responding to Saturday’s attack.

When they checked his identity after his death, anti-terror forces realized that he had been questioned a year ago for alleged links with Islamist radicals.

He had been listed, since May 2014, on the so-called “S List” or “S card,” which includes the names of people considered potentially dangerous for various reasons, and therefore subject to surveillance by police and intelligence agencies. (The S stands for security.)

Azimov had also been listed on a newer register (known as FSPRT) which lists people under surveillance for belonging to radical Islamist movements. Created in March 2015 the register is used mainly by the homeland security agency.

Many French people are now also questioning the efficiency of the systems.

“We learn again that the terrorist was listed in the S card,” far-right leader Marine Le Pen said on social media after the killing. “What is the use of this S card if we do not use it to stop these terrorists from causing harm on French soil? They are useless.”

Laurent Wauquiez, leader of the center-right Républicains' party, called for the preventive detention of the most dangerous people on the S List. Preventive detention is contrary to the French Constitution, however.

Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, a right-wing politician who heads the “Stand France” movement, said foreigners on the S List should be expelled.

“The attacks are unpredictable, but we cannot accept the inaction of the state,” he said after the Paris attack.

There are some 20,000 people on the S List, including gangsters, anarchists, radical unionists, Islamist radicals, and Muslims suspected of being in the process of radicalization.

Being listed does not necessarily imply guilt or justify detention. However, it allows close surveillance by the authorities, and even questioning of the person or friends and family.

Those listed are only subject to arrest if they commit a crime, or are suspected to be planning to do so.

Deadly terror attacks in France in 2015 led to the establishment of the FSPRT register.

It lists about 14,000 people, many of whom are also on the S List.

It purpose is much the same – to improve the detection and monitoring of people considered potentially dangerous – but access to the FSPRT register is limited to anti-terror services, whereas many law enforcement agencies have access to the S List.

When an attack, terror-related or not, occurs, police often find that the perpetrators were on the S List. Of the 32 people who have committed terrorist attacks in France since 2012, including Azimov on Saturday, 21 were on the database.

Terror experts counter that the existence of the S List will never prevent an attack.

Jean-Charles Brisard, president of the Center for Terrorism Analysis, said the database was nothing more than “a tool to allow police to monitor individuals who could pose a threat to the safety and security of people.”

Yves Trotignon, former analyst at the external intelligence agency DGSE, said there was evidence of the existence in France of “hundreds, even thousands of potential perpetrators of this type of attack.”

“Individuals who may pose a risk are detected, identified, monitored and sometimes approached,” he said. “This means that the intelligence gathering system is working.”

Sponsored Links