French President Francois Hollande reviews troops during his visit aboard the a French nuclear aircraft carrier on Jan. 14, 2015 off the coast of Toulon, southern France.
Anne-Christine Poujoulat/Pool/Reuters

France steps up involvement in fight against ISIS

As France continues to reel from a series of terrorist attacks last week, French President François Hollande announced Wednesday that his government will step up its involvement in the U.S-led coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Andrea Mitchell Reports, 1/14/15, 12:01 PM ET

ISIS video praises Paris attack

NBC’s Ron Allen reports on the reaction around France following the publication of the most recent issue of Charlie Hebdo, as ISIS releases a new video praising the attack on the magazine staff.
“If we can combat terrorism in Iraq, just as we did in Africa, we are ensuring our own security,” Hollande said in his annual new year’s address, laying out plans for France to heighten its involvement in the fight against ISIS following a massacre at the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical news magazine, which left 12 dead, the murder of a police officer, and a related attack on a kosher supermarket that killed four hostages. 

Hollande addressed the recovering nation on Wednesday just days after the deadly string of terrorist attacks. He spoke from aboard the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle in the southern city of Toulon, announcing that he’d send the ship to the Indian Ocean to join in the fight against ISIS in Iraq. The aircraft carrier will significantly raise France’s profile in the operation – which the French parliament voted to continue on Tuesday in a nearly unanimous vote – and Hollande vowed to increase the country’s involvement further if needed.

“If necessary we will be able to act in Iraq with more intensity and more efficacy; the aircraft carrier will be working in very narrow communication with the other forces and will be able to attack in any point in the event of supplementary tensions,” he said.

RELATED: Al Qaeda claims responsibility for terror in Paris 

The 38,000-ton aircraft carrier is the flagship of the French fleet: a nuclear-powered vessel that can hold up to 40 fighter planes and is the most sophisticated ship of its kind in Western Europe.

“We are waging war on the terrorists, so we’re putting forth our most significant resources,” he said in the address, which focused largely on France’s need to continue waging overseas wars against jihadists like ISIS and extremists in Mali, where France has been intervening since 2013. 

France was one of the first countries to join the U.S.-led coalition to fight ISIS in Iraq and arm rebels in Syria, launching its first airstrikes in the middle of September, just weeks after the coalition was formed. The country has Europe’s biggest Muslim population and more than a few ISIS sympathizers, according to one poll.

In his address, Hollande said again that France was “waging war” against terrorism on behalf of French values and painted the battle as defensive, not offensive. 

“France holds certain values, liberty of men and women. This is why we want to live together with these values, this is why we are asking you to carry out these missions this is your duty,” he told the assembled marines and military personnel. 

“In the face of jihadism, fundamentalism, terrorism, France needs to act,” Hollande said, citing last Sunday’s Unity March, the largest demonstration in France’s history, as a sign of the people’s “conviction.”

“There is no democracy that doesn’t need to be protected by an army.”
François Hollande
“The French have told us that if we are to live in peace, democracy, and liberty, we need journalists to speak, to talk, to write, we need cartoonists to draw, we need policemen to protect them, we need the army to defend them,” Hollande said. “There is no independence, or liberty, there is no democracy that doesn’t need to be protected by an army.”

The president’s address coincides with the publication of the latest issue of Charlie Hebdo, the magazine whose staff was massacred by al Qaeda-linked operatives last week. The new cover features a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad, the very thing their attackers say prompted the massacre, raising fears of reprisal attacks. Before dawn, the magazine was sold out on newstands and shortly after another run of an additional 2 million copies was announced. 

RELATED: Muslim leaders condemn latest Charlie Hebdo 

On the same day, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released a video taking credit for the attacks.

The group – a notoriously violent branch of the larger terrorist organization – released a video calling the massacre “vengeance” and celebrating the Charlie Hebdo gunmen. 

The video, entitled “Message regarding the blessed raid in Paris,” shows senior al Qaeda leader Sheikh Nasr Bin Ali Al Ansi saying that his group “chose the target, laid the plan, and financed the operation.”

Despite the emphasis on freedom of speech in Hollande’s address, France has recently begun cracking down on hateful speech.

French media report that the Interior Ministry has been arresting and jailing people whose speech is deemed hateful or violence-inciting. The same reports say 54 people , including one political cartoonist, have been arrested under the country’s strong anti-hate laws since the attack.

Germany is also aiming to expand its anti-terror security procedures, including a measure currently under review that would allow authorities to withdraw identity cards from Islamic extremists, something that would keep them from leaving the country legally. The Associated Press reported that while authorities can already revoke their passports, identity cards are typically used to travel to countries like Turkey, which is often used as a gateway to Syria and Iraq.

France and Paris

France steps up involvement in fight against ISIS