Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Be careful what you read on the Internet (including this blog!). It seems that the police investigating the recent murder spree were led to the suspect via an ad for a motorcycle placed by one of the dead soldiers. The police traced 580 IP addresses that had visited the ad site, and one of them turned out to be the brother of the alleged killer. Another lead involved an inquiry, apparently by the killer himself, to a cycle shop about the possible existence of a GPS geotracker device on his scooter. He wanted to know how to disable it.

The DCRI also had a watch on the alleged assassin because of his two visits to Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2010 and 2011.

Remarkable police work, I think.


Anonymous said...

"Remarkable police work, I think."

..or more likely a totally amateur terrorist! Nevertheless good thing they appear to have got the prime suspect.

bernard said...

Indeed, it looks like this guy and his brother confirm the fact that major criminals are usually major idiots.

Cincinna said...

The suspect called France 24 and wanted to turn himself in, and rake credit fir his acts.
Other raids on other suspects were ongoing.
This is no act of a madman, this is terrorism, This is an Islamist terrorist, a jihadist who trained in Al Qaida training camps on the AfPak border.
France will face terrorism straight on, as it always has, and trying to diminish it, or sweep it under the rug , as
some are trying to do, will only give comfort to the enemy.

Mitch Guthman said...

@ Cincinna,

I think some perspective is in order here. These people are far less organized than any of the dozen or more terrorist groups that have operated in Europe and England in my lifetime. If it turns out that this person who called France 24 and who is in the standoff with the police is the attacker then it’s clear that he was basically a lone wolf much like Anders Breivik. This does not call into question the French approach to dealing with the terrorist threat.

The terrorist attacks by Algerians inside metropolitan France, including the effort to use a hijacked Air France plane in a suicide attack on Paris, were far better organized and sophisticated. Likewise the various IRA campaigns in England. Even the Badder-Meinhoff gang (famously called the “clowns of terror” by the Daily Mail) planned their operations better and were more sophisticated than this individual.

Also, it seems pretty obvious the the main ‘training” this guy received couldn’t have been much more sophisticated than playing on the monkey bars. Assuming that he was actually “recruited” by Al Qaeda, they evidently couldn’t figure that it was a bad idea to have him travel to and from Afghanistan on his own papers. When he returned to France and, presumably, became “operational” he seems to have received no meaningful support from Al Qaeda in carrying out is mission. He lived and conducted his “operations” under his true identity which apparently is why the authorities (who were already aware of him) could focus on him so quickly.

He bought the scooter himself, apparently with his own papers and using his own computer which is apparently the way in which the French authorities were able to identify him as the attacker and track him down.

This guy would have gotten better “training” in secret operations if Al Qaeda had just sent him the collected works of Ian Fleming instead of having him play on the monkey bars.

He apparently wasn’t given any kind of escape route (safe houses, people to buy him stuff like food while he stays out of sight, false papers, etc) probably because, unlike the IRA or the ODESSA or the Badder-Meinhoff’s KGB handlers, Al Qaeda clearly no longer possess the ability to support operational personnel outside of Pakistan or Saudi Arabia in this way.

As I say, he’s basically the Islamist equivalent of Anders Breivik. He can do a lot of damage but he’s clearly not a part of a real organization in the way that, say, the IRA is a real terrorist organization.I think the French need to be careful not to overreact and damage the fabric of their society as we in America did after Sept. 11, 2001.

Cincinna said...

Islamist terrorism comes in many shapes and firms, especially home grown ones like this.
The reluctance to call this for what it us is dangerous. Filing it under "police work" or "criminal investigation" is dangerous.
 And so, tragically, it seems that Al Qaida is alive and well in France. 
  The scooter-killer, from the milieu Salafist/Jihadist, born & raised in France,  trained in Al Qaida camps near the AfPak border. 
  Other raids in the Toulouse region are in progress, trying to dismantle this terrorist group.
  It is a tragedy for those soldiers & children, and their families,  stalked and shot down in cold blood on the streets of France. 
  It is also a tragedy for France, and freedom loving citizens everywhere.
  This will obviously bring the issue of national security to the forefront in the upcoming election.
  The French have an excellent security service,  and secret service, second only to the Israeli Mossad.
  They are to be congratulated for their excellent work. Two policemen from Toulouse were shot by the terrorist during the raid.
  France must face this head on, and deal with it for exactly the problem it us. Native grown Islamist terrorists wreaking their terror on innocent French people.
  Our prayers are with the victims, the wounded, their families, and the leaders and people of France. 

Anonymous said...

@ Cincinna: I've been listening to the news and haven't heard of other police raids on his "terror group" so if you have verified inside intel please share but source/justify.

My first thought was like Mitch's: A French Breivik. After all Breivik also claimed himself as a believer. There's not much difference to me. Terrorists always use religion as a motivation and pretext because God isn't likely to give contradiction.

The film maker who did "la désintégration", a film that's likely to get wide exposure now, since it depicts a young man who becomes a terrorist, believes that this terrorist is not representative (he met lots of would-be djihadists in order to prepare for his film.)


Cincinna said...

Myos, the info about raids on other houses in Toulouse, the arrest of the presumed terrorist's brother, was broadcast on France24 live early Wednesday morning.
As to your point about terrorists always using religion, I would remind you of the Unabomber, who was an atheist, the Bill Ayers and the Weather Underground bombers who were far left radicals, also atheists.
The interesting question proposed by the movie is why people become radicalized, and commit horrific crimes in the name of their misguided belief system.
An interesting clue might lie in the fact that these are not the poor and disenfranchised, but the middle class, often over privileged, well educated. That certainly was the case with Bin Ladin , the 911 terrorists, the Weathermen, and Unabomber.

Cincinna said...

According to my friends who work the NYPD anti-terrorism, the newest MO for Al Qaida is to train jihadists in their camps, set up very loosely organized networks, and program the terrorists to act individually.
Not on the mass scale destruction of 911, London, or Madrid, but look what damage and terror this one individual has been able to wreak on France, if he dud indeed act alone, which I am not certain yet he did.
His stated goal was to bring France to its knees. He didn't succeed, but three young French soldiers who were willing to pit their lives on the line fir their country were killed, their families and friends devastated, and a young father and three little children were massacred, putting fear into the hearts of an entire city and country.
I'm still hoping they get this guy alive. GITMO will seem like Disneyland compared to the interrogation he will undergo. No 4th amendment protection, no Miranda, no right to counsel in France.

Mitch Guthman said...

@ Cincinna,

Just focusing for a moment on the question of training. It seems pretty clear that this guy had nothing that one might call “training” in these camps beyond something that looks more like boot camp. He travelled everywhere on his own papers, including to Afghanistan which suggests that Al Qaeda’s trade-craft in recruiting isn’t very good since the suspect immediately came to the attention of French authorities.

He obviously knew less about being a secret agent than he would if he’d simply watched a season or two of “Danger Man” and he knew less about hiding his tracks than the average reader of High Times. He obtained the guns on his own. He obtained the scooter on his own, apparently using his brother’s computer and his own genuine identity papers (There is even some question about his using the genuine license plates for the scooter). He wasn’t in even a very loose network since he did everything himself and did it in a way that basically guaranteed that he’d be tracked down in a matter of days after his first attack (which is exactly what happened). He didn’t detect that he was under observation and he had no escape plan. So, when you say that he was “trained” what exactly do you think Al Qaeda taught him about the techniques of being a successful terrorist?

As for his interrogation, I suspect that if the French are able to take him alive it will be done by real professionals looking to extract the maximum amount of useful information not sadistic thugs as would be the case in this country or in Russia or the Arab countries, for example. He’s already talking about the planning and “operational details” of his killing spree. He called up a journalist at France 24 to talk about his relationship with Al Qaeda. He seems very proud of that association and it would appear that each time the police negotiators have scoffed at his claim to be a part of Al Qaeda, he has offered additional details. So they’ll probably have a “bad cop” who will laugh at him and taunt him to “prove” that he’s really connected (which he might actually do based on what he’s said thus far). He think what’s he’s done is important and my guess is that now that he’s in the “spotlight” they won’t be able to shut him up just like with that nutter Breivik.

It seems likely that the mother and the girlfriend and his lawyer from the illegal driving case will eventually agree to go to work on him to keep him talking and try to make him see the evil he has done. The interrogators will have pictures of the people he killed and they will probably try to get him to relate to them----essentially, I would expect them to try to de-radicalize him and get him to kind of change sides. That’s the kind of techniques that I would expect them to use. The rough stuff might be emotionally satisfying but all it would accomplish is to make him clam up.

The more troubling aspect of this situation and the thing that makes it France’s 7/7 is that this suspect was homegrown like the jihadists who did that series of bombings (which killed 52 people and horribly injured a couple of hundred more). So I agree with you that we need to learn more about the process of radicalization and Europe needs to find some way of dealing with the fact that there is now a huge number of people living in their countries who consider themselves foreigners and outsiders. Is there a way to integrate them into the closely knit, extremely homogenous countries of Europe without fundamentally altering those countries? I think the points made by Myos are important and deserve further discussion.

Anonymous said...

The brother is a salafist but it doesn't sound like there are other cells. Merah is an excellent killer but a shoddy terrorist.
Yesterday someone told me he'd been listed as #1 suspect as soon as the first soldier was shot but nothing moved until the children were murdered. I thought they were repeating rumors -how could the secret services have let him go after the second murder in Montauban if they had him in their sights after the first? - but it turns out that indeed it was the case. There probably is a good reason but it still makes me uncomfortable.