Wednesday, March 30, 2016

ISIL As Factory Workshop

"This didn't all of a sudden pop up in the last six months. They have been contemplating external attacks ever since the group moved into Syria in 2012."
Michael Flynn, retired U.S. Army lieutenant general

"It's a factory over there. They are doing everything possible to strike France, or else Europe."
Reda Hame, 29, French computer technician, ISIL inductee

With his French passport and his experience in information technology he was a prized catch for the Islamist jihadis dedicating themselves to terrorizing Europe. His introduction to jihadi-style training techniques, once he had successfully reached Syria from Paris through Turkey, seemed fairly abrupt, basically how to fire an assault rifle, given a grenade and told to practise tossing it at an improvised human silhouette.

That brief course in guerrilla warfare was his introduction to becoming a successful inductee in inspired terrorism. His Islamic State handler drove him back to the Turkish border with advice to be selective so he could target as many civilians in one fell swoop as possible, on his way to becoming a shaheed. No doubt their parting was unsentimental but optimistic; something along the lines of 'bye for now, see you in Paradise'. A wink and a thumbs-up and off they went, their separate ways.

Reda Hame was game, and he wasn't the only one dispatched at that time. It seems that ISIL was thinking ahead, testing the waters, as it were before full commitment to carry off terror on a more grand scale. First it meant to test the awareness and capability of European intelligence in weighing their response to isolated, randomized small events before embarking on the serious fireworks. A string of foreigners who had been invested with terror tactics were spirited back into Europe.

When Reda Hame's venture into martyrdom went awry and he was instead arrested, his interrogation resulted in some fairly interesting background facts. Back in the early days of 2014 there were indeed random events occurring of jihad attacks in Europe, all of them testing the focus of intelligence agencies. Who reacted by discounting each plot with the educated opinion that they all were what they appeared to be; random, isolated and unlinked to any group action.

In retrospect, the man who ran the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2012 to 2014 now sees the linkage. Reda Hame represented one of an estimated 21 operatives who returned with their abbreviated training back to Europe. They were to embark on a spree of killing. And once the official reaction to what they were engaged in was assessed the serious action was to ensue with the intention of killing hundreds of people in Paris, Brussels and onward - precisely what occurred.

Associated Press
They were among the many pawns that Abaaoud was positioning across the Continent.

Too late, European officials discovered that Mr. Hame's handler was Abdelhamid Abaaoud who specialized in selecting and training fighters to bring off plots in Europe, and who later catered the Paris attack. On January 3, 2014, Greek police stopped a taxi in a town close to the Turkish border where Ibrahim Boudina, a 32-year-old French citizen was returning from Syria. His luggage was fascinating; a French document titled How to Make Artisanal Bombs in the Name of Allah, and a cache of 1,400 euros.

Since no warrant existed for his arrest in Europe he was free to go. But he was on France's watch list as part of a 22-man cell radicalized at a mosque in Cannes. His friends were wiretapped along with his relatives by French officials at this point. And the police managed to arrest him in February of 2014. In the building housing the family's apartment near Cannes, a utility closet held Red Bull soda cans brimming with triacetone triperoxide explosive.

Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images
The police set up a perimeter around the family’s apartment near Cannes, arresting Boudina on Feb. 11, 2014.

Eventually the Syria-trained ISIL operatives, mostly French and Belgian citizens, were arrested in Italy, Spain, Belgium, France, Greece, Turkey and Lebanon. Their plans were to attack Jewish businesses, police stations and other crowded venues. Attempts were made to open fire on packed train cars and church congregations and most failed. But as the arrests were made, the connection with ISIL was not.

One of the more notorious events was that of Mehdi Nemmouche, returning from Syria via Frankfurt, making his way to Brussels. And there on May 4, 2014, he opened fire at the Jewish Museum of Belgium, killing four people. Police discovered a video where he claimed responsibility for the attack. A flag bearing the words "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" appeared on the video. Leading Belgium's deputy prosecutor to dismiss an connections.

"He probably acted alone", Ine Van Wymersch, assuredly informed reporters, at the time.

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