Thursday, March 22, 2012

Woman Claims to Have Complained of Killer to Police on Several Occasions

Story here.


wm said...

That story is unbelievable. I saw an interview with her on the Journal de France 2, but this article was much more explicit.

Mitch Guthman said...

I’m not sure what to make of this or a number of other articles critical of the investigation. Specifically, I don’t understand the significance of her complaints to the police about Merah or regarding the lack of followup. Apart from the totally impractical alternative of putting Merah under 24hr surveillance for the rest of his life, at this point, I don’t really see what the security services could have done differently.

It was published in several sources that Merah was already very well known to the security services as a potential terrorist who had travelled to Afghanistan and Pakistan to volunteer as a “moudjahidin”. They had apparently tracked him from the moment he returned to France and it is said that the checked up on him regularly. So it would seem that the police/security services actually knew far more about Merah then she was able to tell them and they knew it long before this lady ever called them. Unless there are far more of these people living in or near Toulouse than one would guess, Merah had to have been very near the top of the pile of suspects from day one.

(If I’m missing something about this lady’s testimony, it won’t hurt my feelings to have my attention drawn to something I’ve misunderstood or overlooked).

There’s also a lot of contrary information floating around right now. For example, about whether the scooter was purchased or stolen and whether he had contact with one of the murdered soldiers.

There’s also the criticisms that the investigation is being described in some quarters as insufficiently intensive and having basically stalled for several days before the school shootings. And that it was excessively focused on the far right (perhaps because of the anniversary and because of ethnicity of the murdered paras) to the exclusion of the possibility of Islamists. (I'm leaning towards this but we really don't know enough about what the investigators thought/knew/did and what resources they were given and when).

For myself, I’m willing to withhold judgment and wait for more (and more settled) facts to emerge in the next few weeks.

bernard said...

I saw an interview on FR2's news of the former boss of DCRI (internal security service). I would expect that he knew what he was talking about. What struck me there was that when he was asked how many dangerous people there were of the caliber of this assassin, he answered nowadays less than thirty, then quoted an order of magnitude of ten. It is indeed a bit strange that so few people would not be monitored constantly, and that guy apparently acquired loads of weapons and what have you whithout being spotted.

As for the lady's complaints, It looks like another illustration of your regular police "work" or lack thereof. It seems to me that, irrespective of terrorism, there were grounds to investigate and, possibly, haul in front of a tribunal. But then we all know about "le racisme ordinaire".

Anonymous said...

This is a guy who threatened people with sabers, kidnapped a minor and forced to watch atrocities, and beat to a bloody pulp a girl (or young woman). Two formam complaints were issued against him, none were investigated.

A friend in computers tells me that several days for 576 IP addresses is unbelievably slow.

Not willful sabotage, but shoddy work at some level.

On the other hand, someone pointed out Toulouse is the exact city where "police de proximité" was given a tongue lashing by Nicolas Sarkozy just before huge cuts were made.

Anonymous said...

He gave the police a full recorded confession during the 32 hour siege negotiation and all the details have been exhaustively and publically documented by the media and on the Internet; he filmed his atrocities (and reportedly published them on the Internet); the police have the terrorist's camera and the incriminating filmed evidence.
He is dead. Good riddance.

Anonymous said...

So where's the murder weapon?

Mitch Guthman said...


You raise two different but obviously related questions:

With regard to keeping Merah and the others under observation, even if there are only 30 people who have travelled to Afghanistan and Pakistan and who also have French citizenship (and therefore can’t be denied reentry), keeping them under constant observation for at least several years and perhaps for their lifetimes would require a staggering amount resources.

Even the most rudimentary surveillance operation requires a bare minimum of three vehicles and six people per eight/twelve hour shift even if his phones are tapped and his vehicles are all providing good GPS information. That’s, say, sixteen trained watchers and between nine and twelve vehicles per subject and there has to be some rotation for days off and so that the subject isn’t alerted by constantly seeing the same faces/vehicles.

I would guess that even the Stasi would have hard pressed to carry out domestic spying on that scale. It’s just not realistic even if 30 is the right number. If the true number is between 200 and 300 young Frenchmen who have travelled to these camps, then the problem of keeping them under surveillance expands by leaps and bounds to the point where simply keeping track of these young men would basically require a domestic security service larger the the KBG in it’s heyday.

But I do have questions about what happened after it became obvious that France was experiencing a terrorist attack (whether from the right or the Islamists makes no difference about whether the scope/scale of the response was appropriate). I would like to know why Merah wasn’t detained or put under round the clock observation after, say, the murder of the second soldier because it must have been obvious these killings were going to continue.

As I say, if there’s a way to forbid travel to Afghanistan and Pakistan (and be able to impose a very, very long prison sentence on violators, that’s a good idea because it’s simply impractical to keep really close track of them.

The second question is why the unrelated charges were not pursued and why wasn't Merah investigated more closely. As I said earlier, I don't see what difference it would have made to anything. This wasn't a case of not connecting the dots. The relevant authorities already knew of his travels to the training camps and that he was probably involved in Islamic extremism. But the question is what could they have done with that knowledge before he actually began killing people?