Reuters reports that a group proclaiming support for Osama bin Laden threatened to harm French executives if they did not pay a $500,000 “jihad tax” in the weeks before the anniversary of the September 11 attacks, French authorities said Wednesday, according to a report from Reuters.
“These threats exist. They are being investigated by the local police authorities,” a spokesman for the Interior Ministry reportedly said.
Dummy hand grenades were thrown into the gardens of the houses of the chief executives of the French units of watchmaker Rolex and sportswear group Reebok within the past few weeks, according to French media reports.
Days later, they received letters threatening harm to themselves and their families if they did not pay what the blackmailers called a tax to fund jihad, or Muslim holy war, Reuters reports.
The threats contained a picture of a hooded man holding a photograph of bin Laden, chief suspect in the attacks on U.S. landmarks one year ago, but gave no instructions on how the targets should hand over the sum of $500,000 demanded, Reuters reports. The head of a food retailer and an executive of an electrical goods firm were also reported as targets.
According to Le Figaro newspaper, the threats were mailed from an east Paris neighborhood and signed by the leader in France of the armed branch of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (FPLP), a radical Palestinian group, Reuters reports.
“The spade work is going on at the moment to assess the reality of these threats,” the ministry spokesman reportedly said. Police in Paris and its western suburb Versailles are handling the investigations, rather than France’s anti-terrorist squad.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, an anti-Semitism watchdog organization that has repeatedly expressed concern about radical Islam, said it had written to Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy demanding action to ensure fast arrests, Reuters reports.
“This could be pranksters, it could be common criminals but it is conceivable it is related to terrorist groups,” Shimon Samuels, director of international liaison for the group, reportedly said.