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Editor Fears Paris Attack Will Fuel Extremism On The Far Right

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. France mourns and is on alert. Seventeen people were killed in three days in the worst terror attacks in France for half a century. Cherif and Said Kouachi, the brothers who said they attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine to avenge what they called insulting cartoons of the prophet, were killed by French forces yesterday after taking a hostage. Their hostage got out alive. A man and a woman who appear to have been affiliated with the Kouachis took more hostages at a kosher grocery in Paris. One suspected terrorist was killed. Another, a woman, apparently slipped out and is still at large. Four hostages were shot to death by the terrorists, say French police. We are joined now by Natalie Nougayrede. She is the former executive editor of Le Monde, now a foreign affairs commentator for The Guardian. She joins us from Paris.

Thank you for being with us.

NATALIE NOUGAYREDE: Thanks for having me, Scott.

SIMON: France has lived with terrorism since the war in Algeria in the '60s. Why do you think these acts have prompted such an outpouring?

NOUGAYREDE: The targeting of Jews in the shop where the kidnapping and the killings happened is an extremely traumatic incident. And I think the initial phase of this terrorist attack, which was the Charlie Hebdo shooting, should not in any way make anybody forget the gravity and really incredible seriousness of this attack against Jewish clients in a Jewish shop in Paris. It was a kosher shop and this was Shabbat, and that is indeed a very serious offense on French territory and will have to be addressed with as much indignation, and is being addressed with huge shock, just as much as the first phase of the terrorist attacks against Charlie Hebdo.

SIMON: France has the largest Muslim population in Europe. Do you see this week's events as affecting French Muslims and maybe French policy on issues like immigration and assimilation?

NOUGAYREDE: This is nothing new. This we know has existed for decades. We know there is a very volatile and fragile social fabric in France because of the economic crisis, because of the way immigration is being perceived in recent times and how immigrants have been scapegoated for a lot of the economic problems in this country. Politically, I fear this trauma and the debates as they unfold will be fueling more far-right extremism in this country because the attackers were from France. They were Muslim. And so a lot of people unfortunately in this country, behind the huge solidarity that you will be seeing tomorrow in Paris - there will be a huge, huge demonstration - but I fear that beyond that there will be a lot of resentment against Muslims because many Muslims will be lumped in with these terrorists. And this is going to be a political challenge. It is going to be a challenge for France's capacity to overcome this and reformulate, redefine, consolidate the values of its democracy. This is a watershed.

SIMON: Natalie Nougayrede, former executive editor of Le Monde who is now a commentator at The Guardian.

Thanks very much for speaking with us.

NOUGAYREDE: Thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.